Sunday, June 20, 2021
Where Indiana’s season took a wrong turn

Where Indiana’s season took a wrong turn

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The results of previous matchups with the Charlotte Hornets, the Indiana Pacers’ opponent in the win-or-go-home play-in game, might not matter much but they should remember the last one. 

Neither team is the same since they last faced off April 2 in Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

The Pacers’ win against the Toronto Raptors on Sunday gave them the upper hand as the No. 9 seed and host. The Hornets lost to the Washington Wizards to drop to 10th.

“They’ve got a lot of weapons offensively,” Domantas Sabonis, who returned to action after a thigh contusion made him miss a game Saturday, said of Charlotte. “They move the ball. They run. They just had us scrambling on defense.”

The Pacers winning comes down to just that, a weakness all season whether or not Myles Turner is in the middle.

Turner, who missed the past 16 regular-season games with right turf toe, isn’t going to play. He has yet to even practice with the Pacers since last playing April 18. 

The Pacers lost 114-97 with the season series on the line with Turner, Sabonis, Caris LeVert, Edmond Sumner and Aaron Holiday. The latter two have been out injured and their availability is in doubt for Tuesday. 

Who the Pacers didn’t have playing in the matchup is Oshae Brissett. He started for the 16th time with so many frontcourt ailments. He set a career-high with 31 points in the finale vs. Toronto.

He gives the Pacers a better option to go smaller if the Hornets use a lineup with 6-7 P.J. Washington at the 5 and playing zone coverages. It was when they went to Washington that the tide turned in their last matchup. Washington got to the rim off the bounce. The Pacers had no answers and couldn’t recover.  

“We went to high school together so I’ve known P.J. for a long time,” said Brissett, who attended Findlay Prep, located in Henderson, Nevada, with him. “Every game he’s getting better and better. He’s definitely someone we’ll have to focus on. He can shoot, he can take it to the basket, he can rebound, he’s strong.”

That’s where the unheralded likes of Brissett and Kelan Martin have filled in lately. They made 8 of 15 3s in the finale, but they should be better defensive options in that spot, too. 

Having Sabonis doesn’t necessarily give the Pacers an edge because if the small lineup doesn’t work for the Hornets they can bring in Cody Zeller or Bismack Biyombo. 

It was that loss to the Hornets where the Pacers’ season began to turn for the worst, leading LeVert to question their effort, calling it “uninspired basketball” as losing ate away at them. 

Coach Nate Bjorkgren wasn’t pleased with his team’s body language and admitted his players weren’t happy. 

A repeat of that Tuesday, and it’s all over.