The New Orleans Hornets blew a 17-point halftime lead on the back of their now-customary third quarter sluggishness Saturday night, losing at home to the Indiana Pacers, 81-75.
The Hornets, coming off last night’s 99-94 loss to San Antonio, came out strong to start the game, stripping the Pacers at every opportunity and giving a rare show of power inside. New Orleans shot 42.1 percent in the first quarter, including 10 points in the paint, and converted 7 Indiana turnovers for 7 points.
The highlight of the quarter came from Anthony Davis, who flew in to the net backwards to stuff home a hard alley-oop from Greivis Vasquez. The Hornets followed that up 40 seconds later with Roger Mason, Jr.’s strong move right up the gut for a driving 3-foot layup.
New Orleans continued their strong play through the second quarter, pushing inside and making plays against a visibly tired Pacers team that flew in tonight for the second of their own back-to-back after beating Cleveland last night.
It was the most dominant half of Hornets play the home crowd has seen in quite some time, and the team extended their lead to 22 with 57.8 seconds left in the half. New Orleans shot 12-of-21 (57.1 percent) for the quarter, to Indiana’s 7-for-21 (33.3 percent).
It was the beginning of the end, however. The Pacers cut the lead down to 17 headed into the half, and went on a 16-2 run to start the third quarter.
Former Hornet David West, who came out from the locker room to hearty applause from the crowd and who was held to just five points in the first half, finished the night with 25 points, seven rebounds and two assists. He also recorded his 10,000th career point in the third quarter, to another round of applause from the 15,042 in attendance.
“We had a plan to take him out. It wasn’t executed properly,” said Hornets Head Coach Monty Williams after the game when asked about West’s performance. “He shot rainbows tonight and they went in.”
“David took what we gave him, and that’s why he’s as good as he is,” Williams said.
The Pacers scored 52 second half points, shooting 53.8 percent from the floor, slowly chewing into the Hornets lead until West tied it up with a 6-foot pull-up jumper with 41.9 seconds to go in the third. West had 12 points in the third quarter, and the Pacers shot 55.6 percent, to just 17.6 percent for the home team.
“They had a second half the way we had a first one,” said Williams. “They hit shots. They got stops when they needed stops. We did the same thing in the first half.”
“We just came in and said that teams lose 17-point leads in the first half of games all the time,” said Pacers Head Coach Frank Vogel after the game. “It happens every week in the NBA, and it usually happens when the better team record-wise is the team that is down. This was a ‘believe’ moment.”
The Hornets lost despite Robin Lopez’s highlight performance, including a season-high 24 points, 11 rebounds, two steals and one assist. Lopez also tied his career high block record with six, and notched his third double-double of the season.
New Orleans finished with a season-high 10 combined blocks, the most since April 2012 in a win over Denver.
An exciting fourth quarter, during which the teams tied four times and traded the lead three times on the back of a resurgent Lopez, wasn’t enough. West iced the game on a fall-away jumper with 16 seconds remaining to put the Hornets away for good.
The Hornets fall to 0-2 against the Pacers this season, and a 5-22 overall record. This was their 11th loss in a row, the longest losing streak in franchise history since the 2004-05 season.
New Orleans will take a few days off before traveling to Orlando Dec. 26 to play the Magic.
Monty Williams After the Game
Listen to Hornets Head Coach Monty Williams' full postgame press conference.