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INDIANAPOLIS – For much of Monday’s first half, it looked like the Pacers would be locked in another tightly contested contest as they searched for their first road victory since December 13th.
But then T.J. Warren went in full takeover mode.
With Warren pouring in 30 second-half points, the Pacers erased a halftime deficit and beat the Hornets (15-24), 115-104.
Warren finished with 36 points, despite not hitting a single three-pointer (15-of-24 from the field, 0-for-2 from three).
“I thought he played a real smart game tonight,” Nate McMillan said of his crafty wing scorer. “There were sometimes when they double teamed him, and he got the ball out of the trap but when he was able to get a look at the basket, he put it in the basket.”
Playing again without Malcolm Brogdon, Indiana (23-14) received key contributions from their starting frontcourt.
Domantas Sabonis had 18 points, 12 rebounds and 7 assists. Myles Turner added 15 points and 9 rebounds.
The Pacers outscored the Hornets by 20 points in the paint, and won the rebounding battle, 43-38.
Down by 2 at halftime, Indiana had Warren erupt for 13 points in the third quarter. A 37-21 third period gave Indiana a comfortable lead in the fourth.
Indiana native Cody Zeller had 14 points off the bench for the Hornets.
The victory ended a four-game road losing skid for the Pacers.
Three Things Learned
-T.J. Warren Learning From The Adult: With mentor David West watching down proudly, T.J. Warren was in takeover mode in Monday’s second half. Warren, a North Carolina native, played for West’s AAU program, and the two have remained very close over the years. Well, Warren gave West something to smile about on Monday with 30 points in the second half. Warren finished Monday with 36 points, yet didn’t make a three pointer, looking like the old school medium range guy he was early in his career for Phoenix. With the game still swaying back and forth into the second half, it was Warren dominating on the offensive end of the floor, while also being asked to use his length defensively on the dynamic Devonte’ Graham. It’s still amazing to me the Pacers were able to acquire Warren (and the 32nd overall pick last June) just by absorbing his contract.
-Needed Bounce Back: In the midst of a stretch in which the Pacers had lost 5 of 7, Monday was a needed bounce back. The Pacers have avoided any sort of losing skids since the opening weekend, but this recent stretch was the most win/loss adversity they’ve faced this season. Monday’s result steadied the ship with a couple of noteworthy home games coming up in the next week (Heat-Wednesday, 76ers-Monday). With Malcolm Brogdon and Victor Oladipo resting respective injuries back in Indiana, any win away from home is an accomplishment, especially in a venue the Pacers lost earlier this season.
-Goga Bitadze Update: It’s been a while since we’ve expanded on the progress of Goga Bitadze. Tossed in with the occasional DNP/coaches decision, Bitadze is playing around 6-9 minutes per game as of late, typically in the first half. When Bitadze is on the floor, it doesn’t take long to see his most obvious strength, and also see where his game needs to grow the most. The strength is his shooting touch and the ability to knock down open looks at several spots on the floor. Where Bitadze must get better is on the defensive end, knowing where to be, when to offer help and finishing possessions via rebounding and boxing out. At times, particularly on Monday, Bitadze looked like a liability on the defensive end of the floor. That’s where his game must develop in order to earn more consistent minutes in the rotation.
Pacers Upcoming Schedule
-Heat 1/8 (Wednesday)
-at Bulls 1/10 (Friday)
-76ers 1/13 (Monday)
-at Timberwolves (Wednesday)