Pacers starters figure to get a breather in finale against Hornets

INDIANAPOLIS — With the Indiana Pacers unable to move up from the No. 5 seed in the Eastern Conference, the team will likely have a new look for the regular-season finale Tuesday night against Charlotte.

For the Pacers to have reached the No. 4 spot, the Cleveland Cavaliers had to lose back-to-back games to the New York Knicks. But after Cavs beat the Knicks on Monday night, Pacers coach Nate McMillan is expected to rest his starters and key reserves quite a bit against the Hornets.

Rest might be a welcome thing.

“Yeah, I thought that they fought through some fatigue,” McMillan said of his players in Sunday’s 123-117 win at Charlotte. “Even though we won, I thought that we were flat for most of this game. We found a way to get some energy. I thought the bench came in and gave us a lot of energy and played well to help us get this win.”

Pacers center/forward Domantas Sabonis scored a career-high 30 points.

“My teammates were trusting me like always and I do my best to finish,” Sabonis told FOX Sports Indiana. “I love it here. It’s been a very fun year. I love my teammates, coaching staff, and I’m just happy to represent Indiana.”

Sabonis averages 11.7 points and 7.7 rebounds per game.

“He’s always crashing the boards, plays well in the pick-and-roll, a very, very smart IQ guy,” Pacers point guard Cory Joseph said.

After scoring below double figures for the first time all season Friday night with five points in a loss at Toronto, Pacers leading scorer Victor Oladipo bounced back with 27 points.

The Hornets were plagued by 22 turnovers, and Charlotte coach Steve Clifford said in four of the last five games, turnovers have been the difference.

“I think we’re first or second in the NBA in taking care of the basketball, but four of the last five games we’ve had 17 or 18 turnovers, which is more product of playing more guys and something that you can live with,” he said. “So we did some good things. Those guys in the fourth quarter did a good job, so we’ll go there on Tuesday and see if we can put together longer periods of good play.”

Clifford said he will start thinking about the offseason later. After winning four in a row, the Hornets have lost five of the last six games.

“It’s been important to me that we play these games well so in nine of the last 10 we’ve been pretty good, competitive and organized,” he said. “So we’ve been putting just as much into these games as we have all year and, frankly, you worry about the next season in the next season.

“I want to win Tuesday and I want (the players) to, too. So I haven’t even thought about stuff like that.”

Hornets rookie guard Malik Monk, who averages 6.5 points, has scored 20 or more points in the last three games.

Clifford said Monk has gotten better with his pick-and-roll game and has been more efficient offensively.

“The thing he is doing better is he’s making plays for other people,” Clifford said.

Clifford has noticed Monk’s assists-to-turnovers numbers have been solid recently as well.

“That, to me, is as much of an indicator as anything of the growth that he’s made in terms of learning how to play in a manner that both he can score and the rest of the guys can play well when he’s on the floor,” he said. “In this league at his size (6-foot-3), pick-and-roll is going to be a big part of it.”