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Hawks 101, Pacers 87: Opportunity Lost

The Indiana Pacers started strong by staggered offensively in the second half, eventually losing to the Atlanta Hawks, 101-87. The Pacers 87 points marks just the fourth time this season the Pacers were held below 90 points. No surprise that the Pacers are 0-4 in those games.

The Pacers picked a bad night to lose their scoring touch since the teams they are chasing the playoffs with also struggled. The Chicago Bulls, Charlotte Bobcats and Milwaukee Bucks all lost, but there's no solace in simply not losing ground since the Pacers need to jump over so many teams. Considering the way the Pacers played at the outset of the game, the fact that they couldn't sustain the effort and pick up a game on a couple of contenders makes it a wasted opportunity.

The strong start by the Pacers was fueled from the inside out. With the Hawks employing a small, athletic front line, the Pacers found some early success by working through Roy Hibbert who had a size advantage in the post. Hibbert scored the first 8 points for the Pacers which helped soften up the Hawks perimeter defense.

Jeff Foster and Rasho Nesterovic came in and added another 8 points from the bigs. Then with 8:11 left in the half, Hibbert scored another two to push the Pacers to a 13-point lead. So the bigs had 18 early points and the offensive flow was creating plenty of good shots.

Then suddenly, Joe Johnson asserted his will on the game, making some tough, well-defended shots. The Pacers couldn't keep pace and the great early effort left the Pacers with a paltry three point lead at the half.

After a 22-point half from the Hibbert/Foster/Rasho mashup, the Pacers didn't force the Hawks to handle the bigs in the second half. The trio only scored three second half points as the Hawks cinched up defensively after the break.

The game was tied at 62 with just over four minutes left in the third quarter when the Hawks dropped a 17-4 run on the Pacers. Despite a couple of attempts to muster up a run, the Pacers just didn't have the game to do it tonight.

A few more individual notes:

  • T.J. Ford saved this game from being a 20-plus point blowout. He finished with 29 points including the final 14 Pacers points in the game. Still 29 points on 23 FGAs from T.J. is not a winning formula.
  • Jarrett Jack struggled all night, getting lost in the lane several times. He was 5-17 from the floor with several of those misses coming in the form of flailing attempts in the lane which more closely resembled turnovers.
  • As mentioned above, Roy Hibbert finished with 15 points but also only had two fouls in almost 28 minutes of playing time. The nice thing was, he was able to keep himself in good defensive position most of the night instead of being stuck in no man's land.
  • Joe Johnson pumped in 30 points for the Hawks and had some sweet two-point buckets in the face of some good defense by Marquis Daniels. Johnson also had far too many open looks considering he should've been the first guy the Pacers would want to account for on defense.
  • This was a fast game, just barely over two hours. The teams combined for only 26 fouls (IND 12, ATL 14) and 23 free throw attempts (IND 12, ATL 13), in addition to taking care of the ball pretty well with only 14 turnovers combined (IND 6, ATL 8).