There won't be much hand-wringing over this loss considering it wasn't televised locally and with the Indianapolis Colts playing the New York Jets, the bulk of the sports-loving folks of Central Indiana were focused on the NFL Playoffs.
They didn't miss much.
The loss was the Pacers' ninth straight to the Hawks, as well as the team's ninth straight road loss which really highlights the fade since November when the Pacers started the season 5-2 on the road. The Hawks jumped out to a 7-0 lead and seemed to cruise from there. The Pacers came back quickly to tie the game at 13 but would never lead.
Josh Smith always seems to be the X factor for the Hawks against the Pacers as Atlanta seems to toy with the Blue and Gold. The lead fluctuated between 5 and 10 points before the Hawks finally pushed it out to double digits midway through the third quarter where it hovered the rest of the way. It really seems like any lead the Hawks have is double the actual margin because they have such control of the game.
Smith averages just under 16 points per game, but scored more than 20 for the third time this year against the Pacers. The high-flying forward finished with 27 points, 10 rebounds and 6 assists as the Pacers simply don't have a player to check him.
While Jim O'Brien threw his adjusted playing rotation at the Hawks it didn't appear there were any other adjustments for their third meeting this year. I was surprised that Josh McRoberts took his turn on the inactive list tonight since he is one player on the roster who enough athleticism to try to challenge Smith. But in the end, with the firepower of Joe Johnson and Jamal Crawford combining with Smith, that's a good team that plays great against the Pacers.
After the jump, a few more thoughts.
- One reason a seven point lead felt like 15 tonight is because the Hawks really controlled the game and with it the pace which was considerably slower than the Pacers would like to play.
- Al 12 Pacers played, including A.J. Price who completed the final six minutes of the game after the Hawks had killed any remaining will in the Pacers. All 12 Pacers scored in the game, although only four scored in double figures with Danny Granger "leading the way" with a paltry 16 points.
- Tyler Hansbrough had 10 points and 5 rebounds and Darren Collison had 14 points, 4 assists and 3 turnovers, but both had frustrating nights, never able to get into any type of rhythm, which is just how Atlanta planned it.
- Paul George had a nice little offensive spurt in the second half, finding his stroke from about 19 feet. If you're looking for positives, PG had the only positive +/- on the night at +4.
- The Hawks went small starting Maurice Evans after starting a bigger lineup with Jason Collins in the past few games. Perfect move by the Hawks considering Roy Hibbert's struggles and the problems the Pacers' front court has with Al Horford and Smith.
- Speaking of Hibbert, he was not much of a factor at all with 8 points and 7 rebounds, still struggling to get his post shots off with any rhythm let alone a chance to go in. After shuffling his feet one time, Slick Leonard was left to just chuckle and later wonder aloud why Roy should be on the court if he's not able to score or rebound. Growing pains continue for the big fella.
- The Pacers actually shot 41% from the floor which is a minor improvement over the poor shooting efforts of late. They only made 5 of 17 from 3-land, though which is almost a fool-proof indicator of a loss.