Thursday, February 22, 2024
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NBA Preview: Indiana Pacers (27-23) at Charlotte Hornets (10-37)

While the Indiana Pacers are trying to prevent a slump from getting out of hand, the Charlotte Hornets are once again trying to snap out of their own doldrums.

The teams meet for the third time Sunday night at Charlotte after each team has won once in the season series.

Indiana dropped its third game in a row with Friday night’s 133-122 loss to the Sacramento Kings. The Pacers simply weren’t up to the task defensively.

The Hornets have lost six consecutive games, with four of those defeats by at least a dozen points. They fell 126-106 on Friday night at Oklahoma City.

The Hornets won 125-124 on Nov. 4 at Indiana, with the Pacers exacting revenge in grand style: 144-113 at home Dec. 20. Buddy Hield had 25 points for the Pacers in the most-recent clash.

Guard Bennedict Mathurin has led the way for Indiana of late, including 31 points Friday. That was his second-highest total of the season, aided by 10 of 14 shooting from the field.

Mathurin had a total of 22 points in the first two games vs. Charlotte this season.

In the first two meetings with Indiana, the Hornets’ leading scorers were center Mark Williams and guard Terry Rozier. Williams hasn’t played in weeks because of an injury and Rozier was recently traded to Miami.

Both teams have been missing key post players.

Indiana starting center Myles Turner (ankle) and normal back-up Jalen Smith (back) didn’t play Friday.

The Pacers are hampered with All-Star guard Tyrese Haliburton on a limited workload as he comes off a hamstring injury. He logged 22 minutes Friday night and might be available for more Sunday.

Haliburton came off the bench against Sacramento to make him available for more late-game action. He didn’t play until the second quarter.

Charlotte guard LaMelo Ball has been closer to returning from an ankle ailment, but hasn’t played since Jan. 26.

A positive for Charlotte recently has come from rookie swingman Brandon Miller, who has racked up 20 or more points in seven of the last nine games. He has reached the 20-point mark 13 times this season.

Charlotte also received a season-high 15 points from Bryce McGowens and a career-best 11 points from rookie Leaky Black on Friday.

But defensive issues continue to be a root of the Hornets’ problems. Oklahoma City shot 58.7 percent from the field, the fourth-highest mark for a Charlotte foe this season.

The Hornets are set to begin a stretch with six of seven games at home.

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