The Indiana Pacers ran into a tough situation on Wednesday night and just weren't up to the challenge against a desperate Atlanta Hawks team that outworked the Pacers and then used some impressive perimeter shooting to hold on for a 97-87 win.
With the Pacers playing the second of back-to-back games, the Hawks came out ready to attack in an effort to avoid losing their fourth straight home game. The foundation for the win was set in the first half as Atlanta had an early 8-0 run and then later an 18-2 run to push their lead in the second quarter to as much as 21 points.
And when I say run I mean the Hawks literally ran and usually right by the Pacers, as Atlanta held a 21-5 advantage in fast break points in the first half. In the second quarter alone, eight of the Hawks 11 field goals were layups or dunks.
Late in the second quarter, with the Hawks up 15, Zaza Pachulia pump faked at the free throw line and then drove by Roy Hibbert with no help for an easy dunk. Then at the other end, Pachulia forced a turnover leading to yet another fast break opportunity. The Hawks had numbers on the break, with Danny Granger and David West trailing. Joe Johnson was fed on the wing but passed up a three-pointer to hit Zaza still running toward the hoop for another layup. The Pacers were simply beat to the rim by Pachulia and it wouldn't be the last time.
As they have all year, the Pacers stuck with it for 48 minutes and came out strong in the third quarter, tightening things up and cutting the lead down to six points. But they just didn't have it and the Hawks showed some resolve by knocking down some key three-pointers which served as rally killers several times in the second half.
If the playoffs started today, these two teams would be doing battle in a 4-5 matchup which would certainly be entertaining, but also a struggle for the Pacers since the Hawks are able to match the Pacers length and athleticism.
After the jump a few more thoughts on the loss.
- The Pacers were beaten on the glass again tonight (45-33) and also gave up 13 offensive boards, which along with the Atlanta three-pointers made mounting viable comeback too tough.
- Kirk Hinrich came off the bench for the Hawks to score a season-high 17 points. Josh Smith was two points off his season-high with 28 points and Tracy McGrady was strong off the bench at both ends and just three points shy of a season-high with 13 points. Oh, and they all hit three-pointers at some point in the second half that stunted a Pacers run.
- The Pacers held their own off the bench with Tyler Hansbrough providing a boost with 15 points.
- Credit the Pacers for coming out strong in the third quarter and battling through the final buzzer but no one player played close to their best game. Roy Hibbert had a 10 and 13 double-double but was outworked by Pachulia. I would've liked to have seen Hibbert get more touches in the post but I'm not sure anything the Pacers tried would've worked.
- Paul George struggled mightily, again finding himself in early foul trouble while trying to guard Joe Johnson. He didn't help things at the other end with a couple of early turnovers that helped fuel an early run by the Hakws. PG was never in the game long enough to find a rhythm and simply had a learn and move on game.
- Danny Granger led the Pacers with 21 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists but he needed 17 shots to score those points. On a positive note, Granger made 3 of 7 three-pointers but that was about it for positives.
- The Pacers did have one of their signature dust ups when Lou Amundson took exception to a hard shove and foul by Tracy McGrady. T-Mac then went straight studio gangster talking a tough game after the two were separated and both were assessed technicals. McGrady did give Granger fits on the defensive end in the second half giving the Hawks a strong effort off the bench.
- The Pacers move on to Memphis to play the Grizzlies on Friday night and once again try to avoid back-to-back losses.