NEW ORLEANS — When the Hornets held the Indiana Pacers to the lowest-scoring first half by an opponent this season, it appeared they were on their way to breaking their long losing streak.
However, the Pacers returned the favor in the second half and received a big boost from a familiar face to Hornets fans down the stretch in taking an 81-75 victory on Saturday night at New Orleans Arena.
The loss was the 11th in a row for the Hornets (5-22), who next play on Wednesday at Orlando. The win was the sixth in seven games for Indiana (16-12) and its second this season against New Orleans.
Former Hornet David West gave Indiana a 71-70 lead with 2:37 left in the game. It was part of eight points he scored down the stretch, each time keeping the Hornets at bay. His step-back jumper in the lane with 16 seconds left sealed it for the Pacers, giving them a 79-75 lead.
“I thought we played not to lose,” said Hornets coach Monty Williams. “They had a second half like we had in the first half.
“When your starters don’t have it, you hope somebody comes off the bench and gives it to you, but we didn’t get that.”
The Hornets’ bench scored 18 points, led by Ryan Anderson’s six.
The loss offset 24 points and 11 rebounds by center Robin Lopez. West had a game-high 25 points.
“When I play here, it doesn’t feel like a road game,” said West, who scored his 10,000 career point in the third quarter, after shooting 11-of-20 from the field. “I love this building.”
But, it was Indiana’s defense that keyed the victory. The Hornets held the Pacers to just 29 points in taking a 17-point halftime lead. However, the Pacers, statistically the second-best team in the NBA defensively, outscored the Hornets 24-7 in the third quarter, in which New Orleans shot just 3-of-17 from the field. The score was tied at 53 at the end of the quarter.
“We got more aggressive, got more active with our hands, got in the (passing) lanes,” said West. “The big thing is we stopped them from roaming and getting easy baskets. We’ve been playing great defense all season, and tonight it carried us through again.”
Indiana battled back all game. The Pacers took their first lead, 60-59, on a 3-pointer by point guard George Hill at 7:22 of the fourth quarter. The teams went back and forth after that.
Hornets point guard Greivis Vasquez hit a floater in the lane and was fouled, completing a three-point play with 1:11 left. The Hornets played good defense and forced an Indiana miss. However, guard Lance Stevenson made a putback over Vasquez, pushing the lead back to four.
“I thought that was the play of the game,” Williams said.
Lopez had scored the third quarter’s first points to give the Hornets a 48-29 lead at 11:24. Twenty-four seconds later, however, he and Hibbert were whistled for a double foul. Trouble was, it was Lopez’s fourth, and he was taken out of the game.
From that point on, Indiana became noticeably more aggressive, particularly in the paint, outscoring the Hornets 17-0. New Orleans didn’t score until he came back with 5:42 showing.
He promptly scored in the low post, but it was now 50-46.
In the first half, the Hornets held the Pacers to 31.6 percent shooting, and Indiana committed 11 turnovers. The Hornets shot 50 percent, including 4-of-6 (66.7 percent) on 3-point attempts.
The Hornets held Indiana to 5-of-18 shooting in taking an 18-11 lead after one quarter of play.