INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Domantas Sabonis had 14 points, 21 rebounds and nine assists, and the short-handed Indiana Pacers routed the Charlotte Hornets 144-117 in the Eastern Conference’s first play-in game Tuesday night.
Led by Sabonis and Doug McDermott, who scored 16 of his 21 points in the first quarter, the ninth-seeded Pacers snapped a franchise-worst nine-game losing streak in the postseason. They also moved within one victory of making a sixth consecutive playoff appearance.
Indiana will visit the loser of Tuesday’s other play-in game, No. 7 Boston against No. 8 Washington, on Thursday.
It was Indiana’s first postseason win since a blowout victory against Cleveland in April 2018. And the Pacers won this one despite losing forward Caris LeVert to the league’s health and safety protocol.
Charlotte was led by Miles Bridges with 18 points and former Indiana University star Cody Zeller with 17. The Hornets finished the season with six straight losses.
The difference: Indiana’s playoff experience, which showed right from the start.
With McDermott leading the charge, Indiana started 7-of-11 from 3-point range, continually beat the Hornets to loose balls and stayed in front of Charlotte on defense.
Indiana pulled out to a 23-9 lead, and then extended the margin 40-24 after one, 69-45 at halftime and 76-45 early in the third quarter. The Hornets were never close after the opening minutes.
The Pacers finished 16-of-35 on 3s and shot 55.2% from the field overall.