Now, the teams will try to keep their emotions in check as they meet in Indianapolis.
Indiana’s Al Harrington and New Orleans’ George Lynch got into a shoving match that escalated into a fight in the Pacers’ 91-84 win on Jan. 3. Harrington, Lynch and the Hornets’ Jamaal Magloire were all ejected from the game.
“They don’t like us, and we don’t like them,” Hornets guard Baron Davis said afterwards. “That’s just how it’s going to be.”
Upon hearing Davis’ comments, Harrington, who has missed Indiana’s last two games with a bruised right knee, was ready with a response.
“Well, we don’t like them neither,” he said. “The NBA better bring all their best officiating crews and plenty of security, because it’s going to be a war the next time we see them.”
The Pacers beat the Chicago Bulls 103-84 last Tuesday, entering the All-Star break with their best record since becoming an NBA franchise in the 1976-77 season. Indiana, which has won three straight and six of seven, has led the Eastern Conference since opening night.
Indiana entered the break tied for first place in the conference last season, but finished the regular season 14-19 before falling in the first round of the playoffs.
“Now we have the experience, and we know what it takes to lose games, and we know what it takes to win games,” said center Jermaine O’Neal, who was the Eastern Conference’s starting center in Sunday’s All-Star game. “I think we should have no trouble keeping pace.”
The Hornets are coming off Wednesday’s 106-98 win over the New York Knicks— just their second victory in seven games. Davis, a reserve on the All-Star squad, had 29 points and a career-high six steals.
“Everybody really wanted to win tonight because we haven’t really been playing that well lately,” said P.J. Brown, who had 12 points. “Hopefully, we can use this to springboard us back to being the team we know we can be.”
STANDINGS (through Feb. 14): Hornets - 3rd place, 10 1/2 GB, Central Division. Pacers - 1st place (tied), Central Division.
TEAM LEADERS: Hornets - Davis, 23 ppg and 7.8 apg; Magloire, 9.4 rpg. Pacers - O’Neal, 20.3 ppg and 10.4 rpg; Tinsley, 5 apg.
SEASON SERIES: Pacers, 2-0.
LAST MEETING: Jan. 3; Pacers, 91-84. At Indiana, O’Neal led the Pacers with 26 points, and Davis had a team-high 35 for the Hornets.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Hornets - 12-13 on the road; Pacers - 21-5 at home.
INJURIES: Hornets - G Courtney Alexander (Achilles’); C Sean Rooks (ankle); G David Wesley (toe). Pacers - G Jamison Brewer (toe); C Primoz Brezec (hamstring); F James Jones (calf); F Harrington (knee).