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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