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Saturday, November 04, 2006

Hornets Sting Pacers in Indiana's Home Opener, 100-91

Rasual Butler scored 11 fourth quarter points as the New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets ruined the Indiana Pacers' home opener, 100-91. The Pacers brought back five of the franchise's original players to celebrate the team's 40th anniversary but their current players neglected to bring much energy or effort. The Hornets outrebounded the Pacers 53-34 and outscored them in the paint 40-26. David West had 20 points and six rebounds for the Hornets, while Tyson Chandler contributed seven points and a game-high 15 rebounds. Second year point guard Chris Paul had a solid game with 16 points and six assists, including six points in the last 2:08 of the fourth quarter. The Pacers' Jermaine O'Neal scored 25 points on 11-19 field goal shooting, grabbed six rebounds and blocked five shots, the second best single game total in the league in that category so far in the 2006-07 season. Marquis Daniels (3-4 shooting from the field, eight points) was the only other Pacer who made at least half of his shots; starting center Al Harrington (four points) shot 1-9 and starting shooting guard Stephen Jackson (14 points) shot 5-13.

The Hornets never trailed in the first half. West was a beast early in the game, leading both teams with 10 points and five rebounds in the first quarter as the Hornets built a 26-20 lead. The Hornets had eight offensive rebounds and 27 field goal attempts in the period. As Pacers Coach Rick Carlisle noted after the game, the Hornets could have easily had a 12 or 14 point lead if they had not missed some wide open shots.

The Pacers again scored 20 points in the second quarter but did a slightly better job defensively and on the boards, limiting the Hornets to 19 field goal attempts, but the Hornets led 48-40 at halftime. Indiana scored eight straight points in the first three minutes of the third quarter to tie the game but ex-Pacer Peja Stojakovic answered with a three pointer and by the 7:29 mark the Hornets were ahead 57-48, their biggest lead to that point. Then Darrell Armstrong and Stephen Jackson hit back to back three pointers and by the end of the period Indiana led 72-69.

Hornets Coach Byron Scott looked to his bench for salvation and Rasual Butler, who had not scored a point in the first three quarters, delivered, shooting 4-5 from the field, scoring 11 points and snaring four rebounds. The Hornets outscored the Pacers 31-19 in the fourth quarter.

The Pacers overcame a slow start to win their first game on the road versus Charlotte but Carlisle is not at all pleased with how the Pacers have played so far and mentioned more than once in his postgame remarks that a lineup change may be in order. He concluded, "We've played with a lack of force in the first two games. I'll take a hard look at it. Whatever it is, it has to change fast. Maybe it's something we need to address via a lineup change. I've said since training camp started, defense is going to have to be our identity. Talk is cheap. We've got to do it."

On the other hand, Scott is feeling very upbeat about his team: "The bench really helped us out. It was a team effort. This is a good start. We have a young team and we will get better and better. We still need to learn a lot about each other. We never quit and keep playing hard. We're still getting comfortable in our new system."

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Notes From Courtside:

Chubby Checker sang the national anthem and also performed at halftime.

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Membership in Legends at Conseco Fieldhouse includes tickets to 45 Pacers games and 18 Indiana Fever games, plus food and beverages, and is limited to about 600 people. Bright House Networks is the presenting sponsor for the club, which is located high above the baseline closest to the visitors' bench. In a ceremony that took place about 45 minutes before tipoff, five original Indiana Pacers--Oliver Darden, Jerry Harkness, Freddie Lewis, Bob Netolicky and Jimmy Rayl--cut the red ribbon signifying the opening of Legends and the beginning of the Pacers' 40th season. They also mingled with fans and signed autographs. They stood together at midcourt right before the game began and were acknowledged with a standing ovation. I had a chance to speak with Lewis, who helped lead the Pacers to three ABA titles, was selected to four ABA All-Star games (winning the 1975 All-Star MVP) and earned 1972 ABA Playoff MVP honors playing alongside the more heralded Mel Daniels and Roger Brown. Lewis is proud that he was the team's captain during his playing days and that he was voted to the franchise's all-time team after he retired. Inexplicably, he is still waiting for his number to be lifted to the Conseco Fieldhouse rafters alongside those of Brown, Daniels, George McGinnis, Reggie Miller and Coach Slick Leonard.

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Right before the game, Jermaine O'Neal addressed the crowd, thanking the fans for their support and pledging that the players would do their best to represent "Pacer pride, Pacer poise and Pacer dedication."

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Ex-Pacer Stojakovic, who rejected the team's offer and chose to sign with the Hornets, was greeted with boos when his name was announced and was heckled throughout the game. Stephen Jackson, the subject of much offseason controversy, was greeted with a mixture of boos and cheers.

posted by David Friedman @ 1:18 AM

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