To hear the Charlotte Hornets tell it, they were just as surprised as anybody else to come up with the most prolific defensive effort in club history Thursday night.
"It was nothing new. We've been doing the same things, but tonight we were just on cue," said Bobby Phills, who added three steals as the Hornets secured their first 2-0 start in the club's 12 seasons. "To be able to cause a veteran team, a good team such as Indiana, to turn the ball over the way they did, that's the perfect scenario. That's utopia right there. You can't ask for anything better."
"It's disappointing how we played," he said. "Charlotte is one of the best teams in the East, and we had a chance to make a statement early in the season."
Instead, it was Jones who made the statement, adding 22 points and keying a 16-6 run in the first quarter that put the Hornets ahead to stay. Jones had six points and two steals in the surge, when Charlotte forced six turnovers and converted them into 10 points for a 22-14 lead.
"Eddie Jones was all over the court," Bird said. "He's got quickness and makes a lot of things happen for them. He's a great player."
Jones' theft total, which represented a new career high for one of the NBA's best defenders, helped the Hornets finish with 20 steals, their second-highest total ever. Rookie Baron Davis added four.
"Our athleticism showed up. We'r a little bit younger than they are," Jones said. "It just happened to be clicking for me tonight. I was really getting in the passing lanes. I was just excited."
Reggie Miller had 20 points for the Pacers, who had more problems than their failure to take care of the ball. Aging center Rik Smits, bothered by foot pain for several years, had trouble getting up and down the court and moving around quickly in the post on defense. Charlotte exploited Smits' problems by repeatedly driving at him down low, and the result was a 46-26 edge for scoring in the paint.
"That was our scheme to go right at him inside," Charlotte coach Paul Silas said. "We really took it to them inside. We thought they would be vulnerable, and it worked."
Two nights earlier, Indiana opened the season by scoring 41 points in the first quarter and never trailing in a victory over the New Jersey Nets. Against the Hornets, the Pacers didn't hit the 41-point mark until there was 2:16 left in the first half, and all that did was cut Indiana's deficit to 13.
Charlotte stretched its lead as high as 20 in the second half, and the Pacers were unable to get it below double figures until the final two minutes.
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