NBA play-in

Pacers torch Hornets, keep playoff hopes alive

Pacers torch Hornets, keep playoff hopes alive

OVERWHELMED. Hornets guard LaMelo Ball drives to the basket past Pacers Domantas Sabonis and Malcolm Brogdon.

Trevor Ruszkowski/USA TODAY Sports/Reuters

Despite the absence of Indiana star Caris LeVert, the Pacers put on a dominant show to eliminate the Hornets in the play-in round

Oshae Brissett scored 23 points to help lift the Indiana Pacers to a 144-117 victory over the Charlotte Hornets on Tuesday, May 18 (Wednesday, May 19, Manila time) in an Eastern Conference play-in game in Indianapolis.

Doug McDermott scored 16 of his 21 points in the first quarter for the ninth-seeded Pacers, who will visit the loser of Tuesday’s clash between the Washington Wizards and Boston Celtics. 

The final play-in game on either Thursday or Friday will determine which team advances to face the top-seeded Philadelphia 76ers in the first round of the playoffs.

TJ McConnell had 17 points off the Indiana bench and Malcolm Brogdon collected 16 points and 8 assists in his return from a 10-game absence due to a right hamstring injury.

Two-time All-Star Domantas Sabonis recorded 14 points, 21 rebounds, and 9 assists for the Pacers, who overcame the absence of Caris LeVert due to the league’s health and safety protocol.

LeVert will be out the next 10-14 days, ESPN and The Athletic reported, suggesting the 26-year-old tested positive for COVID-19.

LeVert was traded to the Pacers on January 13 after 12 games with the Brooklyn Nets this season. During the physical required before team and league trade approval, a small mass was discovered on his left kidney. He underwent surgery in January. The mass was identified as renal cell carcinoma.

He finally made his debut with the Pacers on March 13.

For his career, LeVert is averaging 14.1 points, 3.9 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game in 260 games (131 starts) with the Nets and Pacers.

LaMelo struggles

Indiana shot a robust 55.2% from the floor and 45.7% from three-point range to eliminate the Hornets from postseason contention.

Charlotte’s Miles Bridges scored 23 points and Cody Zeller made all seven of his shots to finish with 17 points off the bench. Terry Rozier had 16 points despite missing 13-of-20 shots from the floor – including all nine from three-point range.

Rookie LaMelo Ball made just 4-of-14 shots to finish with 14 points for the Hornets, who made just 12-of-40 from beyond the arc en route to sustaining their sixth straight loss.

The Pacers bolted out of the blocks behind a scintillating start from McDermott, who made his first five shots – including four from three-point range – to stake Indiana to a 23-9 lead with 7:08 remaining in the first quarter. The Pacers went 7-for-14 from beyond the arc to push their advantage to 40-24 at the end of the first quarter.

Justin Holiday capped his team’s sizzling first half with a triple to give Indiana a 69-45 lead at intermission.

The Pacers scored the first seven points of the third quarter to effectively put the game out of reach. –