Pacers-Hornets Preview

The Indiana Pacers are among the best defensive teams in the NBA, and that's a big reason they're putting together perhaps their best stretch of the season. It appears all likely to continue against the woeful New Orleans Hornets. The Pacers go for a sixth win in seven games Saturday night when they attempt to beat the Hornets for a fourth consecutive meeting for the first time in almost 17 years. Indiana (15-12) allows league lows of 40.8 percent shooting from the floor and 30.9 from behind the arc, and that's precisely why the team gives up an average of 90.4 points - trailing only Memphis' 89.2. The Pacers' defensive success has been evident while winning five of six, yielding 85.7 points per game. That success continued with Friday's 99-89 win at Cleveland, where Indiana limited the Cavaliers to 40 percent shooting and six Pacers reached double figures while the team shot 48.8 percent. "We had a great balance with our starting five with all guys in double figures," coach Frank Vogel told the team's official website. "Most of them shot a good percentage." Roy Hibbert is looking to build on his team-high 18 points from Friday. The center is averaging 10.8 points and 8.0 rebounds over the past six games, but has been a defensive anchor in the middle, with his 2.8 blocks per game ranking among the league's best. Hibbert gave the Hornets (5-21) a strong dose of that tough play Nov. 21, setting a franchise record and a career high by swatting 11 shots en route to his first triple-double with 10 points and 11 boards in a 115-107 overtime win. Paul George had a career-high 37 points in that meeting, connecting on 13 of 21 from the floor and setting a club mark with nine 3-pointers. The swingman wasn't close to being that effective Friday, making 4 of 13 field goals while missing all three attempts from long range to finish with 10 points. Strong performances from Hibbert and George against New Orleans could give Indiana its first four-game winning streak in this series since Feb. 7, 1995-March 3, 1996, when the Hornets were located in Charlotte. The Hornets own the worst record in the Western Conference, and their recent play isn't inspiring much confidence. They're lost 10 in a row while averaging 88.7 points, and another defeat to the Pacers would match their longest slide since Nov. 23-Dec. 14, 2004. New Orleans' dreadful stretch continued with Friday's 99-94 loss at San Antonio, as the Hornets hit just 2 of 16 shots from 3-point range. Anthony Davis missed last month's matchup with the Pacers due to a sore left ankle, and the top overall pick in last summer's draft is coming off a solid performance against the Spurs. The forward had his most productive offensive performance in seven games since returning from that injury, making 8 of 13 field goals while totaling 18 points and 11 rebounds Friday. The Pacers may be without Gerald Green, who suffered a sprained left ankle Friday. The reserve swingman has totaled 35 points over the past two games, and made a highlight-reel dunk over the Cavaliers' Samardo Samuels before drawing a technical for staring him down. "I don't mind a little swagger, but I don't want to get a technical," coach Frank Vogel said. "Two games in a row, he's given us big lifts off the bench with our scoring." Green, who averages 7.7 points, managed five in last month's meeting with the Hornets.