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Sabonis leads Pacers past Hornets 144-117 in play-in round

Domantas Sabonis had 14 points, 21 rebounds and nine assists, and the short-handed Indiana Pacers routed the Charlotte Hornets 144-117 in the Eastern Conference’s first play-in game Tuesday night.

Led by Sabonis and Doug McDermott, who scored 16 of his 21 points in the first quarter, the ninth-seeded Pacers snapped a franchise-worst nine-game losing streak in the postseason. They also moved within one victory of making a sixth consecutive playoff appearance.

Indiana will visit the loser of Tuesday's other play-in game, No. 7 Boston against No. 8 Washington, on Thursday.

Indiana Pacers' Doug McDermott (20) shoots against Charlotte Hornets' LaMelo Ball (2) during the first half of an NBA basketball Eastern Conference play-in game Tuesday, May 18, 2021, in Indianapolis. (AP PhotoDarron Cummings)

It was Indiana's first postseason win since a blowout victory against Cleveland in April 2018. And the Pacers won this one despite losing forward Caris LeVert to the league's health and safety protocol.

Charlotte was led by Miles Bridges with 18 points and former Indiana University star Cody Zeller with 17. The Hornets finished the season with six straight losses.

The difference: Indiana's playoff experience, which showed right from the start.

Indiana Pacers' Doug McDermott (20) and Domantas Sabonis (11) react during the first half of the team's NBA basketball Eastern Conference play-in game against the Charlotte Hornets, Tuesday, May 18, 2021, in Indianapolis. (AP PhotoDarron Cummings)

With McDermott leading the charge, Indiana started 7 of 11 from 3-point range, continually beat the Hornets to loose balls and stayed in front of Charlotte on defense.

Indiana pulled out to a 23-9 lead, and then extended the margin 40-24 after one, 69-45 at halftime and 76-45 early in the third quarter. The Hornets were never close after the opening minutes.

The Pacers finished 16 of 35 on 3s and shot 55.2% from the field overall.

Indiana Pacers' Oshae Brissett reacts after hitting a shot during the second half of the team's NBA basketball Eastern Conference play-in game against the Charlotte Hornets, Tuesday, May 18, 2021, in Indianapolis. (AP PhotoDarron Cummings)

TIP-INS

Hornets: Terry Rozier had 16 points, eight rebounds and six assists. Malik Monk added 13 points. ... LaMelo Ball had 14 points and four rebounds in his postseason debut. ... Rozier and Devonte’ Graham each finished the regular season among the league’s top 15 in 3s made, but the Hornets were just 12 for 40 from deep against the Pacers. ... Charlotte's last postseason win came in April 2016 when it beat Miami. ... The Hornets have lost three straight postseason games when they could have advanced.

Pacers: Sabonis had a franchise-record nine triple-doubles in the regular season, four in May. ... T.J. McConnell had 17 points, five rebounds and four steals. Oshae Brissett scored 23 points, and Justin Holiday had 12. ... Goga Bitadze had 14 points and 10 rebounds. ... McDermott has scored in double figures in a career-best 14 straight games. ... The Pacers have won four of their last six. ... Indiana finished the regular season with the best road record in the East at 21-15.

Indiana Pacers' Domantas Sabonis (11) goes to the basket against Charlotte Hornets' Cody Zeller (40) during the first half of an NBA basketball Eastern Conference play-in game Tuesday, May 18, 2021, in Indianapolis. (AP PhotoDarron Cummings)

INJURY REPORT

The Pacers won despite missing LeVert, starting center Myles Turner (right foot), starting forward T.J. Warren (left foot) and key backup Jeremy Lamb (left knee). Malcolm Brogdon had 16 points and eight assists in his first game back since injuring his right hamstring April 29. Charlotte played without Gordon Hayward (sprained right foot) and Cody Martin (sprained left ankle).

UP NEXT

Charlotte Hornets' Devonte' Graham (4) and Indiana Pacers' T.J. McConnell (9) vie for a loose ball during the first half of an NBA basketball Eastern Conference play-in game Tuesday, May 18, 2021, in Indianapolis. (AP PhotoDarron Cummings)

The Pacers travel to Boston or Washington on Thursday, with the winner claiming the East's final playoff spot. Charlotte heads home for the offseason.

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Charlotte Hornets' Miles Bridges (0) shoots over Indiana Pacers' Doug McDermott (20) during the first half of an NBA basketball Eastern Conference play-in game Tuesday, May 18, 2021, in Indianapolis. (AP PhotoDarron Cummings)