Oubre, Hornets finish strong, beat Pacers
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Kelly Oubre Jr. scored 28 points, and the Charlotte Hornets erased a 21-point first-half deficit to beat the Indiana Pacers 115-109 on Monday night behind a strong finish to snap a six-game home losing streak.
Terry Rozier added 23 points and Gordon Hayward had 22 for the Hornets, who outscored the Pacers 19-4 over the final six minutes to deal the Pacers' postseason hopes a big blow.
Myles Turner and Buddy Hield each had 20 points for the Pacers, who fell 2 1/2 games behind the Chicago Bulls for the 10th spot in the Eastern Conference standings. The Bulls defeated the Philadelphia 76ers 109-105 in double overtime on Monday night.
“Believe me, an opportunity lost for sure,” Pacers coach Rick Carlisle said.
Oubre said he and his Charlotte teammates are well aware that some Hornets fans don't want them to win at all at this point in the season with the team eliminated from playoff contention, hoping to have a better shot at the upcoming NBA draft's two prize prospects Victor Wembanyama and Scoot Henderson.
But Oubre said the Hornets aren't bout to stop competing.
“It's kind of backward when we people are commenting on how bad we played and when we lose they give up on us. But then when we win they say ‘you’re not supposed to win,'" Oubre aid. "So it puts us in a uncomfortable position. But we are going to continue to play hard every night. ... We're in the mind frame of setting up something for next year.”
The Hornets trailed 105-96 with 6:23 left in the game after Hield knocked down a 3-pointer.
But Svi Mykhailiuk's 3-pointer from the corner sparked a 13-0 Hornets run to put Charlotte in control as the Pacers were held scoreless for more than five minutes. Hayward's 3-pointer with 3:32 left put the Hornets ahead for good.
The Pacers turned the ball over 21 times resulting in 35 Charlotte points.
“At that point, you're just giving it away,” Carlisle said.
The Pacers (32-40) looked like they might blow out the Hornets early, bolting to a 40-22 lead behind Turner, who had 15 points in the first quarter on 9 of 9 shooting from the foul line.
The lead got as big as 21 in the second quarter, but the Hornets (23-50) battled back to take the lead in the third quarter when JT Thor buried a 3-pointer from the wing off an assist from Hayward.
“Tonight, they were really good early, and we were really bad,” Hornets coach Steve Clifford said. "But you could tell in the huddle, guys were talking, ‘stay with it,’ talking about the corrections they had to make. We played better and better, so they were rewarded tonight, which is great.”
Nick Richards was strong in the second half for Charlotte, finishing with 14 points and 17 rebounds.
While some NBA players have missed a game here or there for load management reasons, Hield has now played in all 72 games for the Pacers.
“He is very prideful about playing," Carlisle said before the game. “He hates missing games, plays hurt, and is very unique. He has a tremendous level of endurance, stamina, and he works at it. He’s also wired to love the game and he just loves to play.”
BALL IN THE FALL
Hornets point guard LaMelo Ball said he expects to return for training camp in the fall after undergoing season-ending surgery on his broken right ankle on March 1.
Ball, who has been limited to 36 games this season, said he isn't sure if he'll begin wearing ankle braces next season after spraining his left ankle three times this season prior to sustaining a season-ending fracture in the other ankle.
Pacers: Played without Tyrese Haliburton (right ankle sprain), Chris Duarte (left ankle soreness) and Kendall Brown (right tibia stress fracture). ... Bench outscored Charlotte's 45-18.
Hornets: Rookie center Mark Williams sat out his fifth straight game with a right thumb sprain, along with Ball and Cody Martin (left knee soreness).
Pacers: Continue four-game road trip at Toronto on Wednesday night.
Hornets: At New Orleans on Thursday night. ___
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