No thriller for Pacers as Hornets set a scoring record against them

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The last time the Indiana Pacers forfeited 155 points in a game, Michael Jackson’s Thriller album was released a month earlier, Late Night with David Letterman was in its inaugural year, and Pacers coach Rick Carlisle was playing his third season of college basketball at Virginia.

Charlotte Hornets guard Kelly Oubre Jr. (12) ties up with Indiana Pacers center Goga Bitadze (88) under the basket during Charlotte Hornets vs. Indiana Pacers at Gainbridge Fieldhouse, Indianapolis, Wednesday, Jan. 26, 2022.
Charlotte Hornets guard Kelly Oubre Jr. (12) ties up with Indiana Pacers center Goga Bitadze (88) under the basket during Charlotte Hornets vs. Indiana Pacers at Gainbridge Fieldhouse, Indianapolis, Wednesday, Jan. 26, 2022.

Forty years later, Indiana (17-32) and Carlisle watched as the visiting Charlotte Hornets eclipsed that total in a 158-124 Pacers loss Wednesday night — the most points allowed in franchise history.

“We’ve got to do a lot better,” Carlisle said simply when asked about his immediate thoughts about the record.

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In a tale of two halves, his Pacers squad sloppily kept things neck and neck with the Hornets through the first 24 minutes. Even while coughing the ball up 11 times in the first half — just about three shy of their 14.4 turnovers per game — Indiana was far from out of the game.

Sure, LaMelo Ball looked as comfortable as ever. Miles Bridges had a couple of signature dunks, while Terry Rozier made four of his six 3s to start while the two matched each other’s 14 first-half points. Even Kelly Oubre Jr. chipped in 16 points in 17 minutes off the bench. But the Pacers had four of their starters in double figures, a solid enough all-around effort to trail just 71-70 at the break.

Indiana looked to be marching to a beat similar to the one they strolled along to on their recent road trip, a stretch in which they muscled away wins over the Golden State Warriors and Los Angeles Lakers with several starters absent.

But Wednesday’s return to Gainbridge Fieldhouse turned out to be the furthest thing from a homecoming.

Charlotte erupted for an 87-point second half — a franchise record for points allowed in a second half — outscoring Indiana by 31 and putting the game away as early as the third quarter. Rookie Terry Taylor checked in for Chris Duarte as early as the 9:38 mark of the fourth quarter to play the remainder of what was only the third game he’s played in all season. The Pacers were already down 24 by that point.

Ball posted 20 points, seven rebounds and six assists in the second half while being a +37 in just under 18 minutes. His performance marked his fourth triple-double of the season.

Strings seemingly protruded the second-year guard’s fingertips as he toyed with the Pacers defense like a puppet master. Beyond the arc, he’d hit open looks, even converting a 4-point play in the third quarter. When the Pacers attempted to run him off the 3-point line was when he truly began to have fun, finding ways to finish at the rim or scoping teammates out of the corners of his eyes.

With his hot hand, Oubre served as a catalyst for the Hornets’ scorching hot 24 3-pointers on 53.3% shooting. Oubre became the third player this season to hit 10 3s in a single game, and would go on to score 23 of his 39 points in the second half, falling a point short of his career-high of 40 points while being subbed out with 4:52 to play in the game.

“You just gotta know the personnel,” said Pacers center Goga Bitadze, who finished with 17 points and six rebounds in 19 minutes. “You know, guys who are shooters, not let them take the easy ones. Overall team effort has got to be better.”

Teams don't often lose a game in which they have eight scorers in double figures as the Pacers did Wednesday night. But in a season of turmoil, there has officially been no stone left unturned for Indiana. For a team trying to gain an ounce of confidence two weeks away from the trade deadline, losses like this make things that much more difficult.

“It’s hard, man,” Bitadze said. “It’s not like you’re gonna forget about it, you know? But you’ve gotta use it as motivation and just go out there and kill.”

This article originally appeared on Indianapolis Star: Pacers allow Hornets to score record 158 points

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