INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. - The Indiana Pacers and Charlotte Hornets initiated the beginning of a back-to-back series with each other on Wednesday. In the first matchup, it was the Pacers who came out on top with 116-106 being the final score.
Before tip-off, it wasn't known whether or not Domantas Sabonis would end up being active for this game. He bumped knees with Kyle Lowry during the Pacers' 129-114 win over the Toronto Raptors on Monday. As a result, he was considered questionable but played through it.
"I don't like sitting out," Sabonis said. "I woke up today and I felt good. I did my shooting time and I was like, ‘I can play.' I would have felt worse if I didn't play."
It appeared as though the Pacers would end up taking complete control of this game based on their first-quarter performance. Indiana scored high 36 points and contained the Hornets to just 19 points. The momentum the Pacers had established certainly did not last.
The Hornets took advantage of the Pacers' bench unit early in the second quarter to begin what turned out to be a lopsided frame of their own. By the time key starters like Myles Turner, Domantas Sabonis, and Malcolm Brogdon checked back in at the 7:19 mark, Indiana's lead was cut to 40-35.
Charlotte's momentum in the second quarter led to them taking a 55-54 lead with 1:00 left in the opening half. The Pacers closed the period on a 5-0 run to take a 59-55 lead at halftime.
Both teams traded blows with one another throughout the third quarter and during the early portion of the final period, too. In fact, the Pacers were up just 94-92 with 7:45 left to play. Indiana took control from that point on -- outscoring the Hornets by a 22-12 margin for the remainder of regulation.
"They're a very good team," Pacers coach Nate Bjorkgren said. "It's a game of momentum. What I told our guys at halftime was 'we had our big first quarter and they had their big second quarter, but our string was a little longer than theirs.' Meaning we were up at half by I don't know, four or five. I said 'we don't want to trade like that anymore.
"We want to ride the highs longer than the lows and we did a much better job of that in the second half instead of the trading baskets. I liked our pace and aggressiveness a little bit better in the third and fourth quarter."
Attacking the Hornets' defense with ball movement proved to be quite successful for the Pacers. The end result was 34 assists with Sabonis (10), McConnell (9), and Brogdon (6) each finishing above five assists individually. Between finding cutters and making kick-outs, Indiana was finding the open man throughout the performance.
"He's a willing passer. When the ball is in his hands, he's going to make the right play," Bjorkgren said about Sabonis. "He took 10 shots and had double-digit assists. He will continuously make the right play."
"Along with [Nikola Jokic], he's one of the best passing bigs in the league."
There was a strong emphasis by the Pacers to attack the Hornets with perimeter shooting. Indiana went 16-of-40 (40.0%) from deep and Justin Holiday (5), Malcolm Brogdon (4), Myles Turner (2), and Domantas Sabonis (2) each made multiple makes.
It was a strong defensive outing for the Pacers in this matchup. The Hornets were contained to just 37-of-90 (41.1%) shooting from the field while holding them to an inferior perimeter shooting clip. Turner made it difficult in the paint as usual as he finished with five blocks.
The Pacers had a balanced scoring performance with almost four players reaching 20 points. Doug McDermott led all scorers in this game with 28 off the bench while Brogdon (25) and Sabonis (22) each met this mark as well. Meanwhile, J. Holiday came up short by just a single-point short as he had 19 points.
Sabonis finished his performance with a triple-double as he contributed 11 rebounds and 10 assists in addition to his 22 points. Brogdon had an intriguing stat-line in his own right by chipping in seven rebounds and six assists.
The Pacers will face off with the Hornets once again on Friday to close out the second part of a back-to-back series.