Two Eastern Conference matchups kicked off the NBA’s play-in tournament on Tuesday night. The first game of the night is in the books, and it was a one-sided affair between the No. 9 Indiana Pacers and the No. 10 Charlotte Hornets. The Pacers shot out to a major lead early on and never looked back on their way to a 144-117 win.
The Pacers opened up a double-digit lead early on thanks to Doug McDermott’s 16-point first quarter, and the Hornets were never able to make things interesting after that, as Indiana dominated the first 36 minutes of the game by 30 points. With a mountain of a deficit to overcome, the Hornets tried in the final frame of the night to claw their way back into the game, but they had dug themselves too deep a hole early on to put any real pressure on the Pacers.
Indiana’s Domantas Sabonis led the way with 14 points, 21 rebounds, and nine assists, just one assist short of a triple-double, while McDermott and Oshae Brisset also played key roles in keeping Charlotte at bay during the game. With the victory, Indiana holds their playoff hopes alive and will face the loser of Tuesday night’s Eastern Conference playoff matchup between the No. 7 Boston Celtics and the No. 8 Washington Wizards for the final spot. Three primary takeaways from Indiana’s big win are mentioned below.
Hornets’ lack of postseason experience is a handicap.
The Hornets are a relatively inexperienced squad. That’s one of the reasons they were so entertaining and unpredictable during the regular season. It’s also the reason why Hornets fans have reason to be hopeful about the franchise’s future. The youth, on the other hand, worked against them on Tuesday night. The Hornets have no postseason experience as a group. Their only primary contributors with such experience are Terry Rozier and Cody Zeller, which was evident toward Indiana.
On either end, Charlotte didn’t come out with the desperation or passion that you’d expect from a team whose season was on the line. They were hit in the mouth right away and trailed 20-7 after only a few minutes. They were never able to get back into the competition after that. On the offensive end, the Pacers got almost everything they needed, both at the rim and from beyond the arc, and they kept Charlotte’s offence from running smoothly. Unlike the Hornets, the Pacers have a roster full of postseason veterans, and they all understood what they had to do as a squad. They came out of the gate focused and ready, and once they secured a sizable lead, they didn’t let up. As a result, they’ll live to fight another day.
In LeVert absence, McDermott and Brissett stepped up to support Indy
When it was announced that Caris LeVert would be unable to play against the Hornets due to league health and safety regulations, it became clear that the Pacers would need someone to fill in for him. After all, Indiana’s LeVert averages 20 points per game. Doug McDermott was the player who wanted to step up. McDermott started hot, assisting the Pacers in burying the Hornets early on. He went 4-for-4 from the field to start the game, outscoring Charlotte 11-7 in the first few minutes. He scored 20 points in the first half, well above his season average of 13.6 points per game.
McDermott only played nine minutes in the second half and none in the fourth quarter because his presence was not needed. As a result, he finished with 21 points, three rebounds, and two assists in the game. In addition to McDermott, Oshae Brissett made a significant contribution for Indiana. He had 23 points, five rebounds, and two assists to lead the team. Both players shot exceptionally well from the field, with McDermott going 7-for-9 and Brissett going 10-for-14. With LeVert likely to miss the next game or games, the Pacers will depend on McDermott, Brissett, and others to keep the offence going.
A tough night for the presumptive Rookie of the Year
LaMelo Ball is widely expected to win Rookie of the Year this season, and the young Hornets guard has a promising future in the league. Ball, on the other hand, had a terrible game against the Pacers, and the final numbers won’t even come close to reflecting how bad he played, as he hit multiple shots in the fourth quarter when the game was already out of control. However, for the first 36 minutes, he was largely ineffective and inefficient.
He was unable to make all of his shots, and he repeatedly turned the ball over. Ball scored 14 points on 4-of-14 shooting from the field and 2-of-6 from beyond the arc. He had four turnovers to four assists, and he finished with a minus-35 rating. Ball had a forgettable result, but one from which he will hopefully learn and improve.