Hornets 89, Pacers 77
After losing their first two meetings with the Pacers—with a melee marring the second loss—the Hornets have handily defeated Indiana in their last two meetings.
New Orleans is the only team to beat the Pacers since the All-Star break, having won 89-75 in Indiana on Feb. 17.
“Hopefully we’ll leave something in their minds if we meet again” in the playoffs, said Hornets forward P.J. Brown, who had 17 points and helped hold Jermaine O’Neal to 5-of-14 shooting. “We match up very well. We’re both defensive-minded teams … and I think the last two games we controlled all phases of the game.”
That included rebounding, where the Hornets had a 52-36 advantage.
“They outrebounded us by 18 in Indianapolis and tonight by 16. … That’s a problem,” Pacers coach Rick Carlisle said. “They’re an unusual team. They have a lot of size and a lot of strength on the inside.”
Indiana never led in the second half. Austin Croshere’s 3-pointer pulled Indiana to 78-70 with a little over four minutes to go, then Davis took control.
He answered with a 3 of his own, drew a charge on Al Harrington’s drive, then slipped a pass underneath to Brown for a dunk, putting the Hornets up 83-72 with three minutes left. Mashburn’s turnaround fade with 2:16 to go finished off the Pacers.
“When Croshere hit a big 3, I had a pretty good feeling and a touch from outside, and just seeing how their defense was playing I knew I was going to take that (3-point) shot,” Davis said. “A lot of people think this was a statement game. Maybe it is, maybe it’s not. Tonight we just came out with the energy and enthusiasm and that’s what propelled us.”
Jamaal Magloire, contained for much of the first half, finished with 16 points and 11 rebounds for the Hornets.
“We know what we got to do if we see these guys in the playoffs,” O’Neal said. “We can’t try to outscore them. We’ve got to hammer them. We’ve got to knock them down. We’ve got to do what got us our two wins. They reversed the strategy on us and that’s how they got their two wins. I’m pretty sure the next time we see these guys it’s not going to happen again.”
Another difference in each team’s victories were injuries. Mashburn missed the Hornets’ two losses, while Ron Artest missed Friday’s game.
The Hornets started to pull away after Harrington’s layup pulled Indiana to 54-49 midway through the third period. Brown committed his fourth foul on the play and was pulled in favor of David West. But the Hornets showed no dropoff as West had four rebounds and played solid defense over the next six minutes.
New Orleans went on 16-4 run that included a 3 by Davis in transition, a 3 by Darrell Armstrong after two Hornets’ offensive rebounds, and a tip-in by Magloire for a 70-53 lead late in the period.
Tough defense defined the opening half as both offenses had trouble getting inside. New Orleans didn’t get its shooting percentage over 40 until the end of the half, and Indiana shot only 35 percent.
Jermaine O’Neal was held to only five points in the half.
“We had two players coming at him,” Brown said. “We never really let him get a rhythm and go one-on-one on me. We forced him out on the perimeter and he started taking a lot of jump shots, and I don’t think that was what he wanted to do.”
In the final seconds of the first half, Mashburn found Davis cutting through the lane for a one-handed dunk over O’Neal that had Davis so excited he ripped off his headband.
Austin Croshere threw in a shot from beyond halfcourt at the buzzer, and the shot initially was called good. But after a video review, the call wasoverturned and the Hornets maintained a 46-34 lead.
The paid attendance was announced as an overflow 17,218 (capacity 17,200), only the third sellout of the season. … Mashburn has scored 20 or more points in each of his last six games. … The loss was Indiana’s first in New Orleans since the Hornets relocated here from Charlotte for the 2002-2003season.