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INDIANAPOLIS — With the Indiana Pacers unable to move up from the No. 5 seed in the Eastern Conference
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, the team will likely have a new look for the regular-season finale on Tuesday night against Charlotte.
For the Pacers to have reached the No. 4 spot, the Cleveland Cavaliers had to lose back-to-back games to the New York Knicks. But after Cavs beat the Knicks on Monday night, Pacers coach Nate McMillan is expected to rest his starters and key reserves quite a bit against the Hornets.
Rest might be welcome thing.
“Yeah, I thought that they fought through some fatigue,” McMillan said of his players in Sunday’s 123-117 win at Charlotte. “Even though we won, I thought that we were flat for most of this game. We found a way to get some energy. I thought the bench came in and gave us a lot of energy and played well to help us get this win.”
Pacers center/forward Domantas Sabonis scored a career-high 30 points.
“My teammates were trusting me like always and I do my best to finish,” Sabonis told Fox Sports Indiana. “I love it here. It’s been a very fun year. I love my teammates, coaching staff and I’m just happy to represent Indiana.”
Sabonis averages 11.7 points and 7.7 rebounds.
“He’s always crashing the boards, plays well in the pick-and-roll, a very, very smart IQ guy,” Pacers point guard Cory Joseph said.
After scoring below double figures for the first time all season Friday night with five points in a loss at Toronto, Pacers leading scorer Victor Oladipo bounced back with 27 points.
The Hornets were plagued by 22 turnovers, and Charlotte coach Steve Clifford said in four of the last five games turnovers have been the difference.
“I think we’re first or second in the NBA in taking care of the basketball
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, but four of the last five games we’ve had 17 or 18 turnovers, which is more product of playing more guys and something that you can live with,” he said. “So we did some good things. Those guys in the fourth quarter did a good job, so we’ll go there on Tuesday and see if we can put together longer periods of good play.”
Clifford said he will start thinking about the offseason later. After the Hornets won four in a row, they have lost five of the last six games.
“It’s been important to me that we play these games well so in nine of the last 10 we’ve been pretty good, competitive and organized,” he said. “So we’ve been putting just as much into these games as we have all year and frankly you worry about the next season in the next season.
“I want to win Tuesday and I want (the players) to, too. So I haven’t even thought about stuff like that.”
Hornets rookie guard Malik Monk, who averages 6.5 points, has scored 20 or more points in the last three games.
Clifford said Monk has gotten better with his pick-and-roll game and has been more efficient offensively.
“The thing he is doing better is he’s making plays for other people,” Clifford said.
Clifford has noticed Monk’s assists-to-turnovers numbers have been solid recently as well.
“That to me is as much of an indicator as anything of the growth that he’s made in terms of learning how to play in a manner that both he can score and the rest of the guys can play well when he’s on the floor,” he said. “In this league at his size (6 feet 3), pick and roll is going to be a big part of it.”
Perhaps Ozzie Newsome will be filled with emotion and just a bit of sadness in the weeks ahead as he prepares for his final NFL draft as general manager of the Baltimore Ravens.
For now, however
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, he won't allow his mind to be cluttered with thoughts other than landing the very best players the college game has to offer.
"It's all about the preparation and it's all about who is the player that we're going to take with that first-round pick 鈥?if we pick in the first round," Newsome said Wednesday.
Newsome 鈥?the only GM the Ravens have ever had 鈥?will step down after the upcoming season. He's been overseeing the draft since 1996, and now he's got one more chance to garner some talent for a team that has won two Super Bowls under his watch.
It's the end of an era, one that started when Art Modell brought his Cleveland Browns to Baltimore and put Newsome in charge of building a winner.
"I really haven't thought about that. I've been more just preparing for this draft," Newsome insisted. "What's going to occur a year from now is not in my thought process. It's just making this the best draft that we can this year. That's what's been my focus."
Newsome spoke while sitting at a table with his successor-in-waiting, assistant GM Eric DeCosta, head coach John Harbaugh and director of college scouting Joe Hortiz.
Behind the foursome was a montage of many of Newsome's greatest picks, including Hall of Famers Jonathan Ogden and Ray Lewis as well as Ed Reed, Terrell Suggs and Joe Flacco.
Recently, though, there have been a few misfires 鈥?most notably receiver Breshad Perriman at No. 26 in 2015, tight end Maxx Williams at No. 55 that same season and safety Matt Elam at No. 32 in 2013.
That's one big reason why the Ravens haven't made the playoffs over three straight seasons, and why Newsome doesn't have time for nostalgia as he nears the April 26-28 draft armed with the 16th overall pick.
"When we were having success, we were getting all the credit
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," Newsome said. "When we're not having success, we take all the blame. It falls right on me."
The 62-year-old Newsome will stay on board after this season as an adviser, according to owner Steve Bisciotti.
DeCosta, 46, has been waiting to take over for years now. He spurned several offers from other teams along the way, and Bisciotti finally decided that it was time to make the switch.
DeCosta, like Newsome, has no time to think about the ramifications of the transition.
"That's still in the future. Honestly, the best thing I can do is take care of today and this process, this draft, for the future," DeCosta said. "We're really focused on this. We've got an opportunity here to really fix our team, which we need to do.
"This draft has a lot of significance, not because it's Ozzie's last draft
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, but because it's the draft that we have right now. We've got a great opportunity. We don't want to blow it."
As a player, Newsome was a Hall of Fame tight end with the Browns. Since 1996, he's gotten a thrill out of choosing from the best college talent in the world.
"From the very first draft, I had the same anticipation, and the same butterflies, that I did when I walked out the tunnel to play my first NFL game," Newsome said. "All the work is done, and then you have this moment where you have to pull the trigger, you have to perform."
Next year, it will be DeCosta's turn 鈥?with help from his mentor.
"Over the last 22 years, probably the most rewarding thing has been working with Ozzie, and I don't see that changing," DeCosta said. "We're a family. We want to win. I've got probably the best GM in the history of football 鈥?at least one of the top five 鈥?and I hope he always stays."
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