Pacers, Hornets meet; both need wins desperately

A month ago, the Indiana Pacers experienced the excitement and positive momentum of a seven-game winning streak. Instead of the streak vaulting the Pacers further above .500, they experienced struggles in getting consistent wins since then.

The Charlotte Hornets were hoping that getting three straight wins in late January would also lead to positive momentum. Instead, like the Pacers, Charlotte struggled to consistently win since then.

The Pacers and Hornets will be coming off positive showings when they meet in Charlotte, N.C., on Monday in front of a national television audience.

From Jan. 26 to Feb. 6, the Pacers strung together seven straight wins to improve to 29-22. Since then, Indiana is 3-8.

The Pacers appeared headed for another loss Sunday in Atlanta but instead pulled out a dramatic 97-96 win decided on Glenn Robinson III's 3-pointer with 0.6 of a second remaining. The 3-pointer capped a comeback from a six-point deficit in the final two minutes after Indiana blew an 11-point lead.

Robinson's shot helped the Pacers move to within two of fifth-place Atlanta in the Eastern Conference. Indiana is only two games ahead of the Detroit Pistons for the eighth and final playoff spot.

"We're just sticking together," Robinson said. "We know we need these wins. We've got a tough schedule coming up, we're on the road a lot. We just want to play for each other, play hard, and leave it all on the court."

"We always talk about it's a 48-minute game and it took all 48 minutes tonight," Pacers coach Nate McMillan said.

Paul George scored 34 points, marking the 11th time the forward topped 30. He scored 30 points or more three times during the winning streak, but before making 12 of 19 shots Sunday, he shot 32.4 percent (38 of 117) in his previous eight games.

Charlotte last won consecutive games Jan. 18-21 when it posted three straight home wins over the Portland Trail Blazers, Toronto Raptors and Brooklyn Nets. Those wins gave the Hornets a 23-21 record, but since then Charlotte is 4-14 and returns home in 11th place and three games out of the final playoff spot.

Charlotte returns to play 12 of its 20 remaining games at home after winning three of its last four games on a seven-game trip. A 114-108 loss to the Detroit Pistons on Feb. 23 was the Hornets' 12th defeat in 13 games, but they concluded the trip with wins over the Sacramento Kings, Los Angeles Lakers and Denver Nuggets.

The Hornets beat Sacramento with Kemba Walker scoring 12 points, but in the wins over the Lakers and Nuggets, he scored 30 and 27, respectively.

On Saturday, Walker helped the Hornets get a 112-102 win in Denver. The Hornets held a 20-point lead and Walker hit a 3-pointer with about four minutes remaining after the lead shrank to four points.

"That was a big road trip for us," Charlotte forward Marvin Williams said. "We have lost some games here and there but we're starting to play better. Denver has been one of the hottest teams in the league the last couple of weeks, so to come into their building and getting a big-time win was huge."

During their stretch of 12 losses in 13 games, the Hornets shot 42.4 percent and averaged 101.7 points. In the last five games, the Hornets are averaging 106 points and shooting 43 percent.

"This is as good a game as we've played for a long time," Charlotte coach Steve Clifford said. "We made a bunch of shots, too. We had a good energy level."

The Hornets played without Frank Kaminsky. The second-year center sprained his left shoulder Thursday in Phoenix and is expected to miss at least 10 days.

The teams have traded double-digit home victories this season. On Nov. 7, Walker scored 24 points in a 122-100 rout, and on Dec. 7, George and Myles Turner scored 22 points apiece in a 110-94 win.