Pacers rout Hornets for sixth straight win
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NEW ORLEANS (AP) Danny Granger and the surging Indiana Pacers aren't just beating opponents. They're blowing them off the court.
Granger led six Pacers in double figures with 20 points, and Indiana went ahead by 30 in the fourth quarter before beating the short-handed New Orleans Hornets 102-84 on Saturday night.
Indiana has won six in a row for the first time in seven years, with the average margin of victory 17.5 points.
"We've had a 30-point lead on almost every team and sometimes 40," Granger said. "We're playing really well right now and playing with a lot of confidence. The last four games, a bunch of us haven't even played the fourth quarter."
David West had 14 points and 13 rebounds in his first game back in New Orleans after playing the first eight years of his career with the Hornets. Darren Collison, whom the Hornets traded to the Pacers before the 2010-11 season, added 13 points, including a circus shot at the halftime buzzer.
Jarrett Jack scored 18 and Marco Belinelli added 15 for New Orleans, which played its fourth game in five days and dressed only nine players for the second consecutive night. The Hornets avoided their most lopsided loss of the season by outscoring the Pacers 19-7 to close the game.
Indiana, playing only its second game in the last 10 days, blew it open with a 21-4 run to take a 54-37 lead at the half.
"It was the perfect scenario," Granger said. "We knew they had to be tired."
West put the Pacers ahead to stay with a basket midway through the second quarter. Dahntay Jones drove for a layup, Collison scored in transition, Roy Hibbert made two free throws and Paul George sank a 3-pointer to give Indiana a 44-35 lead, the largest of the game to that point.
West passed to a wide-open Granger for another 3, making the score 47-37. The pivotal stretch came in the last 34.5 seconds, when Indiana tacked on seven more points.
Granger hit a mid-range shot. Collison stole the inbounds pass and sank a shot from just inside the 3-point line. Granger hit the first of two free throws after being fouled on a drive with 2.4 seconds left. He missed the second one, but Collison picked it up off the floor and drained a leaping one-handed shot from 19 feet at the buzzer.
"I didn't expect it to go in," he said. "I just threw it up at the hoop, and it went in. I'll take it."
The Hornets had twice as many turnovers (four) as baskets in the last 6:50.
Hibbert, who scored a career-high 30 points in the Pacers' 117-108 win over the Hornets on Feb. 22, missed all four of his shots from the floor and finished with four points.
It didn't matter.
Granger, who had averaged 23.2 points in his last nine games against the Hornets, made four of seven 3s. Indiana also got 40 points from its reserves.
"Our cohesiveness as a team and our chemistry is really good," Granger said. "We have the ability to beat you in so many different ways. We can shoot it, we can post and our defense has really been carrying us."
New Orleans made only one modest run, scoring seven in a row to pull within 70-53 and prompting Indiana coach Frank Vogel to call a timeout with 2:54 left in the third quarter.
Granger hit an off-balance leaner on the next possession, sparking a 9-1 Pacers spurt to end the quarter as they went ahead 79-54.
The Hornets, who beat Dallas on Friday, again played without Trevor Ariza (illness), Carl Landry (MCL sprain), Emeka Okafor (sore left knee), Jason Smith (concussion) and Eric Gordon (right knee injury).
"It's tough for any team in this league, not just us," Jack said. "We had an emotional victory yesterday, and we just didn't have a lot left in the tank."
The energy difference was evident. Late in the third quarter, Collison had a breakout layup off a routine rebound when no Hornets player got back. Early in the fourth, no one blocked out as West missed a free throw. The Pacers' Tyler Hansbrough grabbed it and converted a three-point play.
West, a two-time All-Star, admitted it was tough seeing New Orleans struggle without him and Chris Paul, who was traded to the Los Angeles Clippers before the season. The Hornets are last in the Western Conference.
West received a smattering of boos after scoring his first two baskets but loud applause after a tribute played on the video screens above the court at the end of the first quarter. He acknowledged the applause by raising his hand over his head
"They warned me," he said. "They told me about it so I knew it was coming. It was nice. I had some good times, enjoyed myself while I was here. I'm very appreciative of how I was treated while I was here and embraced by the city."
Notes: The Pacers play at the East-leading Chicago Bulls on Monday. Solomon Jones, whom the Hornets recently signed to a second 10-day contract, had 10 points in the first half and finished with a season-high 12 after scoring 11 on Friday night against Dallas.
Updated March 4, 2012