This isn’t how any NBA team wants to head into a lengthy All-Star Break. It was as if the Indiana Pacers were already thinking about enjoying eight days off.
Although they insisted otherwise, the Pacers appeared to take a day off before the break.
They certainly didn’t go about their jobs as expected Wednesday night, when the visiting Charlotte Hornets shot better than 50 percent for just the fourth time in routing the lifeless Pacers 117-95 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Not that the Hornets are the NBA’s worst. They’re 27-26, just one game behind the Pacers (28-25) in the Eastern Conference standings. And Charlotte has won eight of 11, so they’re playing better than Indiana right now.
But the Hornets began the night 29th in shooting percentage. That’s when, if nothing else, you expect your defense to continue a trend. And Indiana had handled these guys 12 consecutive times at home.
That made get-away day rather disconcerting. That and the fact that reserve center Jordan Hill suffered a dislocated right ring finger and his timetable to return is undetermined. He’ll need the time off as much as anyone.
“We should have been more dialed in,” guard Paul George said. “They were up more for this game than we were.”
That’s never encouraging. Charlotte shot a season-best 51.7 percent, which included making 12-of-28 3-pointers. The Pacers made just 4-of-18. Remember when Indiana was second in the league in 3-point shooting. Uh, well, the Blue & Gold have fallen to 17th in that stat.
“We got outplayed by a red-hot team playing with great confidence,” head coach Frank Vogel said.
Asked later about his players admitting to a lack of energy, the coach said, “I’m not happy about it.”
OK, it’s only one game, but it sums up where the Pacers are right now, which is … well … to be honest, you really don’t know how to feel, right?
On most nights, sure, they’re competitive and capable against almost everyone (except the Warriors). But they blow fourth-quarter leads and have a few stinkers now and then, which calls into question team leadership, if nothing else.
George is headed to his third All-Star game, and deservedly so because he’s having a career year. But he’s also still trying to figure out how to be that guy, the one everyone looks to, counts on and feeds off of, especially in the most challenging situations.
Rookie Myles Turner has been a bright spot lately, but still has growing pains, which one would expect from a 19-year-old kid. The Pacers are 5-3 with the 6-foot-11 forward in the starting lineup. But after hitting his first three shots this night, he started missing, and worse yet struggled to get out on the perimeter to defend the three. That and a sore shooting hand suffered from a first-half slap meant he didn’t play as many minutes as usual.
George scored 22 points on 8-of-18 shooting, which included 2-of-5 3-pointers. None of his teammates scored more than a dozen points. George Hill had those, but the team’s best 3-point shooter missed four of his five long-range shots.
Not that it would have mattered. A lack of intensity is most evident on defense. And the Hornets all but put this one away with a 35-18 second quarter after the teams finished the first quarter tied at 25.
“We’ve just got to play harder,” reserve guard-forward C.J. Miles said.
Only one night, but nobody cares to hear such words. Or these.
“We got outworked,” Miles said.
Phillip B. Wilson also can be found on Facebook and Google+.