NEW ORLEANS (AP)—Lee Nailon says the Hornets are getting a better grasp of what first-year coach Byron Scott wants from them on offense. In Nailon’s case, the coach wants him to focus on his specialty—scoring.
Two games after reaching a career-high with 32 points, Nailon came back with 30 points and 10 rebounds against Indiana, leading New Orleans to a 90-87 upset of the Pacers on Wednesday night.
“He has an uncanny ability of knocking down shots when you really need it,” Scott said.
Dan Dickau’s 17 points included a late free throw that gave the Hornets the lead for good, but it was his miss on the next free throw that ended up helping the Hornets finish with a crucial three-point possession.
Rodney Rogers, who had 12 points, got his last two on a stunning play as he slapped the rebound from Dickau’s miss out of Jermaine O’Neal’s hands, sending the ball into the hoop with 3.7 seconds left.
“I wasn’t looking for that to happen. Dan usually makes his free throws,” Rogers said. “I was just trying to slap it away and it went in. We needed that because (Jamaal) Tinsley was killing us and they made some big shots down at the end.”
But included among the shots the Pacers missed at the end were Reggie Miller’s only two 3-point attempts of the game, the last of which could have tied the score in the final seconds.
Tinsley scored 28 points for the second night in a row, but unlike a night earlier in Houston, it wasn’t enough for a Pacers victory. He scored 18 in the fourth quarter, hitting a straightaway 3-pointer with 25.4 seconds left that pulled the Pacers, who trailed by 10 early in the fourth quarter, into an 87-87 tie.
But Tinsley was called for a foul as Dickau drove inside with 5.2 seconds to go, setting up the Hornets’ game-clinching three-point possession on Dickau’s free throw and Rogers’ putback.
“They made their shots at the end, got a couple of calls and made the free throws,” Tinsley said. “We struggle in back-to-back games. We must learn to stay focused.”
O’Neal finished with 24 points, but his three missed free throws in the fourth quarter and his failure to stop Rogers’ late putback gave the Hornets— victorious only six times this season—the opening they needed to win their third straight home game.
“I don’t know what to tell you guys. It’s a bad loss for us,” O’Neal said, looking depressed. “If we want to get back to a certain level then we’ve got to play consistent and we didn’t.”
The score was tied at 61 opening the final period, but the Pacers missed their first six shots and turned the ball over twice against a New Orleans defense that was swarming aggressively to the ballhandler.
Tinsley then led the Pacers back into the game, and his 3-pointer with 53 seconds left pulled Indiana to 83-82. After P.J. Brown hit a pair of free throws, O’Neal went hard inside and put in his own miss while getting fouled. But O’Neal, who had missed a pair of foul shots earlier in the quarter, missed another.
Nailon’s 19 first-half points helped the Hornets keep pace early, and New Orleans held a 47-44 lead when Rogers found J.R. Smith for and alley-oop dunk with 37 seconds to go in the second quarter.
O’Neal, who had 16 in the half, hit a turnaround jumper on the baseline to narrow the margin, then Tinsley stole the ball from Dickau in the final seconds of the period and found Jeff Foster for a quick-release floater than went in off the glass at the buzzer, giving Indiana a 48-47 lead at halftime.
Baron Davis missed his second straight game with a bruised right ankle, an injury that occurred in the Hornets’ loss at Toronto on Sunday. Davis has now missed 21 games this season with two separate injuries. The earlier injury was an inflamed disk in his lower back. … Andersen had three blocks and has had at least one in 10 straight games. He also had nine points and 10 rebounds … The Pacers are 3-8 in the second of back-to-back games.