Preview: Pacers at Hornets

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[March 04, 2016]  The battle for sixth place in the Eastern Conference takes center stage on Friday, when the Charlotte Hornets face the Indiana Pacers. The Hornets are a half-game clear of the Pacers for the No. 6 spot in a tightly-packed Eastern Conference.

Charlotte has won eight of its last 10 games to move from outside the top eight into the No. 6 slot and could end Friday in fifth with a win and a loss by the Atlanta Hawks. Indiana pulled even on its road trip and snapped a three-game slide overall by pulling out a 104-99 win at Milwaukee on Wednesday but remains in a precarious position in seventh place, 1 1/2 games ahead of the Washington Wizards and Chicago Bulls tied for ninth. The Nos. 5 thru 10 teams in the East are separated by just 2 1/2 games, and the Pacers get a chance to do direct battle with the competition in games against the Hornets and the Wizards this weekend. "We knew this was a must-win game for us," Indiana guard Rodney Stuckey told reporters after Wednesday’s win. "This road trip is not going to get any easier."

TV: 7 p.m. ET, FSN Indiana, FSN Southeast (Charlotte)

ABOUT THE PACERS (32-29): Indiana nearly squandered a 19-point, third-quarter lead at Milwaukee before Solomon Hill finally iced the game at the free-throw line. The Pacers have struggled closing teams out since the All-Star break, including a 96-95 home loss to Charlotte on Feb. 26, and are scheduled to play eight straight games against teams without losing records starting on Friday. “We make it too difficult on ourselves by mental breakdowns defensively and turnovers offensively,” Indiana coach Frank Vogel told reporters. “That was kind of my message. We don't need to make things this difficult on ourselves. You just play the game the right way."

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ABOUT THE HORNETS (32-28): Kemba Walker played the hero with the go-ahead bucket at Indiana last week and continues to carry the offense for Charlotte with a combined 56 points in wins over Phoenix and Philadelphia in the last two games. Walker finished with 22 points and 10 assists in the win over the Pacers and has gone for 20 or more points in 10 of the last 11 contests. Walker is a better scorer at home (21.7 points) than on the road (19.9), and the Hornets will play the next seven in a row and nine of the next 10 games in their own arena.


1. Hornets G Nicolas Batum is averaging 13.5 points in the last two games after failing to reach double figures in three straight.

2. Stuckey scored 15 points on Wednesday after totaling 12 in the previous three contests.

3. Charlotte took each of the first two meetings this season – both on the road.

PREDICTION: Hornets 109, Pacers 106

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