The Indiana Pacers can't seem to string together enough wins to make a steady climb in the standings.
They've had to do much of their recent work on the road, so a home game could provide a boost when they take on the Charlotte Hornets on Wednesday night at Indianapolis.
Indiana went 2-3 on its just-concluded, five-game road trip, falling 117-113 on Monday night to the New Orleans Pelicans. The Wednesday home contest vs. Charlotte is merely a stopover, as the Pacers' next two games will be on the road.
"Overall, the trip had a lot of positives," Pacers coach Rick Carlisle said. "I love the spirit we played with on this trip. We need to bring that home on Wednesday."
The Hornets have dropped two games in a row, including a 125-113 road loss to the Toronto Raptors on Tuesday.
"Not enough effort, not enough urgency," Charlotte coach James Borrego said. "We got to correct that."
Still, there has been something different to address just about every game for Indiana.
The Pacers gave up a season-high 66 points in the paint to Phoenix on Saturday. Two nights later, they yielded 64 points in the paint to New Orleans.
Carlisle said the Pacers tried a smaller lineup at times in an attempt to cut off drives into the lane. He said he's not normally prone to go to a "small-ball" approach.
"Protecting the paint is going to be an ongoing emphasis, an ongoing theme for us," Carlisle said. "It's a challenge in this league, with all the skill, with all the speed going downhill."
Duane Washington Jr. made seven 3-pointers to post a Pacers single-game rookie record in the New Orleans game. He finished with 21 points in his 16th career game.
"You kind of know where your shot is going to come from, and I'm still learning every day," Washington said. "I'm not sure what game this is for me, so just continuing to put good days together."
The Pacers need those types of boosts.
"Duane Washington is always ready," Carlisle said. "He's done a lot of good things recently. He can shoot the ball. He knows how to play the game. He brings energy, and his presence on the floor creates a real positive vibe."
The Hornets are halfway through their first set of games on back-to-back days since losing Jan. 2 and Jan. 3 to the Phoenix Suns and the Washington Wizards. They have gone 0-2 three times and 1-1 five times in back-to-backs this season.
Charlotte had a season-low four 3-pointers on Sunday in a 113-91 home loss to the Atlanta Hawks. The Hornets struggled again from long range on Tuesday night, going 10-for-31.
Charlotte forward Gordon Hayward missed the past two games due to a sore right foot.
"Other guys have to step up," Borrego said. "That's the bottom line. Everybody wants minutes. Here's your opportunity."
A game in Indianapolis holds significance for Hayward, who was a college standout at Butler.
Charlotte is 3-0 against the Pacers this season, with the wins coming by one, three and eight points.
--Field Level Media