Charlotte Hornets

Charlotte Hornets pull away from Indiana Pacers in OT, win 80-71

Marvin Williams was mad as he came off the court in the first half Saturday after missing some wide-open jump shots.

“I’m gonna hit a big one – a big one in this game,” Williams promised Charlotte Hornets teammate Gerald Henderson.

Williams didn’t hit a big one, he hit three of them. A go-ahead 3-pointer late in the fourth quarter and two long 2-pointers in the last two minutes of overtime as the Hornets held off the Indiana Pacers 80-71.

This was a game of gruesome offense: The Hornets’ field-goal percentage – 30.7 percent – was the lowest in a victory in the history of NBA basketball in Charlotte. It was the ninth-lowest by any winning team in NBA history.

The Hornets (16-25) were missing their best two scorers – point guard Kemba Walker (sore left knee) and center Al Jefferson (groin strain). With those two in street clothes, there weren’t many options offensively.

Williams didn’t score a lot Saturday (nine points on 4-of-11 shooting from the field), but the timing of his baskets were crucial to pulling off this victory.

“That’s the kind of confidence you need in a game like this,” Henderson (20 points) said of nine-season veteran Williams. “A young guy might not be like that – be that positive.”

Henderson became the focal point of the Hornets offense, or what there was of an offense. Though he shot only 6-of-19 from the field, his nine trips to the foul line (he made eight free throws) were big.

The Pacers (15-27) are one of the teams the Hornets are in direct competition with for one of the last two playoff spots in the Eastern Conference. The Hornets already lost to the Pacers in Indianapolis on a fluke play: Solomon Hill got a put-back at the buzzer that won at the end of regulation.

This one was just that close. The Pacers are without star Paul George, out for the season with a broken leg and the Hornets signed free agent Lance Stephenson away from Indiana in July. But the Pacers are still a defensive force built around center Roy Hibbert.

Indicative of that defense and the Hornets’ limited options offensively, Charlotte won this game without ever scoring more than 20 points in a quarter. Small forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist’s 16 rebounds were as impressive as any Hornets statistic.

Then they dominated overtime, outscoring the Pacers 12-3. Indiana didn’t score until the last 30 seconds of the overtime, when guard C.J. Watson banked in a 3-pointer. By then the Hornets were in control, leading by 10.

Henderson was asked how the Hornets figured out their offensive problems late in the game.

“I don’t know if we did figure it out,” said Henderson, who played through an upper-respiratory infection that kept him out of practice Friday. “In the fourth quarter and the OT we started picking up the pace.”

Coach Steve Clifford said that was crucial. The Hornets aren’t by nature a fast-break team but depleted as they are with Walker and Jefferson out, they needed to quickly get into their offensive sets to preserve all 24 seconds in a shot clock.

Brian Roberts was solid as the replacement starter at point guard and shooting guards Gary Neal and Lance Stephenson helped out with the ball-handling off the bench.

“We have to play more quickly on offense. We’re better with the shots we get in the first 12 seconds,” Clifford said.

Stephenson looked extra motivated against his former team. Though he committed three turnovers he also brought energy and toughness. At one point he shoulder-butted Hibbert, sending him to the floor after Hibbert blocked Stephenson’s drive to the rim.

“I didn’t hit him that hard,” Stephenson said. “He flopped.”

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