PREVIEW: Indiana Pacers look to cool off Charlotte Hornets’ Gordon Hayward

Jan 22, 2021; Charlotte, North Carolina, USA; Charlotte Hornets forward Gordon Hayward (20) drives to the basket against the Chicago Bulls during the second quarter at Spectrum Center. Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

Malcolm Brogdon answered his worst game of the season with his best, as his career-high 36 points paced the Indiana Pacers to their second win in their past three outings.

Brogdon aims to keep the Pacers heading in the right direction on Wednesday night when they play the first of two consecutive games against the Charlotte Hornets in North Carolina.

Brogdon bounced back from a 5-of-22 performance from the field in Indiana’s 107-102 setback to Toronto on Sunday by making 10 of 17 shots in a 129-114 victory over the Raptors on Monday.

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“Honestly, I was pretty angry after last game,” Brogdon said. “I was incredibly locked in for (Monday’s) game. I really wanted to make a point.”

Brogdon sports team-leading averages in points per game (22.7) and assists (7.2), and those numbers aren’t far off from his three-game output against the Hornets last season. He averaged 19 and 7.3, respectively, in the season series, with 31 points coming on 12 of 19 shooting in a 122-120 overtime loss in Charlotte on Nov. 5, 2019.

Devonte’ Graham scored a then-career-high 35 points in that game to help the Hornets overcome a 14-point, fourth-quarter deficit.

Graham, who averages 13.8 points per game this season, has found his scoring touch of late. He eclipsed the 20-point plateau in three of his last four games, including 21 points in a 117-108 setback against the Orlando Magic on Monday.

Gordon Hayward, who leads the team with 24.1 points per game this season, is averaging 30.5 points over his past four contests. He has made 43 of 74 shots from the floor (58.1 percent) in his past four games and 8 of 13 from 3-point range (61.5 percent) in his past two.

Despite the recent success of Graham and Gordon, Charlotte lost for the fifth time in six games Monday after leading 30-15 in the first quarter.

“I thought the second quarter cost us on both ends of the floor,” Hornets coach James Borrego said of the game’s turning point. “It started with our offense. It’s unfortunate because we got off to such a great start and came out with the right mindset but could not sustain it.”

Indiana will have some questions to address after All-Star forward Domantas Sabonis departed late in the first quarter with a left-knee contusion. Sabonis collected 11 points and three rebounds before the early exit brought an end to his string of 16 straight double-double performances to begin the season.

X-rays on Sabonis’ knee showed no structural damage; however the 24-year-old is expected to undergo an MRI on Tuesday. Sabonis is averaging 20.4 points (on 53.7 percent shooting) and a team-high 12.4 rebounds.

“I just know when someone goes down, someone else has to step up, especially with the production that (Domantas) gives us,” Myles Turner said. “I just put my head down and was being aggressive, as aggressive as possible, and got to the free-throw line a lot.”

Turner certainly did that. He went to the foul line on 16 occasions — making 11 — and finished with 21 points Monday to surpass the 20-point plateau for the fourth time in his past five games.

–Field Level Media