CHARLOTTE — The Indiana Pacers will travel to Charlotte on Monday night for an Eastern Conference showdown with the Hornets. It’s been a tale of two teams for the Pacers so far this season, as they’ve won all three games at home and lost all three games on the road.
Indiana is coming off its best effort of the season on Saturday night, defeating the Chicago Bulls 111-94 and dominating from the opening tip.
"This is the type of game we want to build on," Coach Nate McMillan said. "We executed on both the offensive and defensive ends. Now let’s see if we can take that execution on the road."
Forward C.J. Miles echoed those comments, telling NBA.com: "It’s easy to play at home when everybody in the building is rooting for you. When you go on the road, it’s just your 15 guys. We’ve got to make sure everybody gets after it."
Both teams will see familiar faces on the opposite side of the court. Al Jefferson will be making his first appearance back in Charlotte after spending three seasons there. He’s off to a slow start with his new team, averaging just 4.7 points in the early going. Former Pacer Roy Hibbert is now with Charlotte, but is doubtful to play because of right knee soreness.
In other injury notes, Charlotte’s Marvin Williams missed practice on Sunday with a viral infection and is listed as questionable for Monday’s game.
The Pacers (3-3) are hoping Saturday’s game is the beginning of a nice stretch for point guard Jeff Teague. He scored 21 points to go along with six assists, and looked much more like the player that starred for the Atlanta Hawks the last few seasons compared to previous games.
"That’s the Jeff Teague we thought we were getting," McMillan said.
When the Pacers have struggled this year, it has largely been on the defensive end, especially with guard penetration. Charlotte’s point guard Kemba Walker will bring a tough challenge for Indiana. Last season, Walker averaged 26.7 points per game against the Pacers, the most he averaged against any Eastern Conference team.
Walker led the Hornets in scoring in four of their five games, guiding them to a 4-1 start. It’s the first time Charlotte started the season 4-1 since the 2000-2001 season.
Despite the good record, the Hornets have only one win against a team over .500, and they’ve been getting off to slow starts in games.
"We don’t want to continue to have bad starts because the results won’t be like this all the time," Walker said. "You don’t want, at the end of the game, to talk about our start. It shouldn’t be that way."
Charlotte coach Steve Clifford has the Hornets playing tough defense this season. The Hornets are ranked third in the NBA in defensive efficiency, allowing 94.1 points per 100 possessions.
The Hornets won all three match-ups with the Pacers last season. It was the first time that happened in the history of the Indiana and Charlotte series.