Pacers look to start hot to avoid getting stung by Hornets

INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana Pacers coach Nate McMillan often talks with this team about the three Cs.

“It means being calm, being clear about what you are doing and being connected,” McMillan said.

That philosophy helped the Pacers rally from a big deficit to knock off visiting Orlando 114-112 Saturday night. The Pacers were down as many as 21 points late in the first half.

It was the third time this season the Pacers had come back to win after being down 20 or more points.

Of course, McMillan hates to see his team get in such a hole and is eager for a better start when the Pacers (27-23) host the Charlotte Hornets (20-28) on Monday night.

But he likes his team’s determination.

“This team just continues to fight. Even when they are down, they dig down deeper,” McMillan said. “They find a way to fight back. We came out soft. The challenge is get our heads up and go out and be us. We said we can win this game. They continued to work themselves back in the game.”

Pacers guard Lance Stephenson, who typically has his best games at home, came off the bench to score a season-high 21 points.

“Lance brings a lot to the floor,” McMillan said. “He brings energy. As I’ve told him, ‘If you are defending, I can keep you in there.’ Offensively, I know he can make things happen. (Saturday) he was making shots and Friday he was making shots. He was playing both ends of the floor. When he’s doing that for us, he can really help us.”

After missing nine games with a sore elbow, Indiana center Myles Turner returned to play 11 minutes against Orlando. Hampered by foul issues, Turner had just four points.

“You could see he was hesitant,” McMillan said. “He had an open look and I’ve never seen Myles pass up a shot that he passed up. We knew he’d be rusty.”

Turner said the best part certainly wasn’t his performance, but being out with his teammates again.

“You can build on it,” Turner said of his minutes. “When I came out, the fans gave me a little ovation and that’s huge to know the city is behind me.”

The Hornets played their starters more than usual in a 95-91 loss at Miami on Saturday night.

“We’re in a situation where we have to win games,” Charlotte coach Steve Clifford said. “If guys are playing well, ride ’em, and guys having the off-nights won’t get as many minutes.”

Clifford said Dwight Howard played well in both games. Howard scored 20 points and grabbed 16 rebounds against Miami.

“He’s owning the paint on both ends of the floor,” Clifford said. “I thought he played terrific.”

Howard had four blocked shots, the last being the 2,000th of his career and making him the 19th player in NBA history to reach that mark.

“It feels good to play at a high level every single night,” Howard said. “But it’s kind of bittersweet; I’d rather win the game.”

Howard, who is averaging 15.8 points and 12.8 rebounds per game in his 13th season, said the Hornets must get better at fourth-quarter execution.

Charlotte backup point guard Michael Carter-Williams sat out Saturday night’s game with a strained left shoulder. His status is questionable for Monday night’s game.