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Hornets overcome struggles to defeat Pacers in OT

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. — It was beyond ugly, so ugly that there were a combined 124 missed field-goal attempts and 13 more missed free throws.

But under the circumstances, the Charlotte Hornets will gladly take their 80-71 overtime win over the Indiana Pacers on Saturday night.

The Hornets played without their two leading scorers, guard Kemba Walker and center Al Jefferson, and their offensive struggles were huge as they shot just 30.7 percent from the field on 31 of 101 shooting.

Still, they stayed close enough to eventually force overtime, and then they outscored the Pacers 12-3 in the extra five minutes, starting the overtime with a 10-0 run.

“Obviously that isn’t going to be on ESPN Classic anytime soon,” Hornets coach Steve Clifford said. “But that was a good win for our team. We made big plays at the end.”

Walker, who had scored 28 or more points in his six previous games and is averaging 19.2 this season, sat out with inflammation in his left knee. Jefferson, the Hornets’ second-leading scorer at 18.0, missed his ninth straight game with a strained left groin.

Guard Gerald Henderson stepped up in their absence and finished with a game-high 20 points, although he was just six of 19 from the field. Henderson scored the Hornets’ first four points in overtime, after missing a shot at the end of regulation that could have won the game.

“We were pretty ugly on the offensive side but we held them to 30, 31 points in the second half and overtime which is exceptional,” Henderson said. “We just locked in on defense and finally made some plays on the offensive end and made some shots late.”

The Hornets (16-25) have now won six of their last seven. And the good news is, Walker is listed as day-to-day so he shouldn’t miss much time, and Jefferson is hoping to return next Wednesday against Miami.

Guard Lance Stephenson was the only other Hornet in double figures with 13 points, but he didn’t play at all in the overtime session. Forwards Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Marvin Williams, and guard Gary Neal scored nine each. But there was horrid shooting everywhere. Williams and Neal were each four of 11, Kidd-Gilchrist was four of 13, and guard Brian Roberts was two of 12.

Henderson was asked afterward how the Hornets were able to figure out a way to score down the stretch in regulation and then in overtime, after they trailed virtually the entire game.

“I don’t know if we ever figured it out,” Henderson said. “I don’t think we were successful. But what changed for us late in the fourth quarter and the overtime was we started picking the pace up some. You can get bogged down with the way they play, especially defensively. They have bigger, slower guys. So once we were able to get out and push the ball upcourt, we freed ourselves up a bit.”

The Pacers (15-27) lost their fourth straight, and they played with little passion or intensity even when leading. They finished at 35.7 percent from the field on 30 of 84, and committed 20 turnovers that the Hornets turned into 17 points.

The Pacers failed to score on their first eight possessions of overtime and were one of 10 from the field in the extra five minutes.

“It was tough,” said forward David West, who led the Pacers with 19 points. “We are just trying to figure things out and trying to compete. On a night like tonight, we need everybody making shots. We just can’t seem to find that balance where everybody is clicking to pull out these wins. We are turning the ball over too much. We’re just not sound in the important moments.”

The Pacers also got 13 points from guard Donald Sloan, and 12 points and 14 rebounds from center Roy Hibbert.

“It’s pretty simple, you score three points in overtime, you’re not going to win,” forward Solomon Hill said. “You score 11 points in the third quarter, you’re not going to win.”

Indiana coach Frank Vogel had little to say.

“We defended on a high level,” Vogel said. “We have to figure out the offensive end.”

NOTES: The Pacers won the only previous meeting between the teams this season, 88-86 in Indianapolis on Nov. 19 when F Solomon Hill hit a follow shot at the buzzer. … The teams will meet four times this season. … The Pacers have been without F Paul George (fractured right tibia/fibula) all season and have been without G George Hill (strained left groin) since the sixth game of the season. … The Hornets were also missing G Jannero Pargo (low back soreness) for the 12th straight game. … Hornets G Lance Stephenson is back on the trading block after a reported three-team deal with Oklahoma City and New Jersey fell through. … The Pacers were coming off a 98-96 home loss to Detroit on Friday night. … The Pacers were starting a five-game road trip that continues on at Houston on Monday. After that are games at Atlanta, Miami and Orlando. … The Hornets were playing the second game of a four-game home stand. They will host Minnesota on Monday afternoon in their annual Martin Luther King Day matinee.

Up to the minute news and reports from the news wire of The Sports Xchange.

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