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Hawks 102, Pacers 92: Hawks Exercise Their Options To Beat Pacers

The Indiana Pacers did a nice job containing the Atlanta Hawks' top scoring option, Joe Johnson on Tuesday night.

Danny Granger exerted himself early and often at the defensive end to frustrate Johnson's offensive game. That defensive effort was contagious, helping the Pacers run out to a first-half lead and forcing the Hawks to adjust their approach to attacking the Pacers.

And adjust they did.

With Johnson on ice, Atlanta just slid down the depth chart finding what they needed at various times during the game from Mike Bibby, Josh Smith, Jamal Crawford and finally, Al Horford. The Hawks spread the wealth and took the Pacers out of their game, eventually securing their seventh straight win over the Pacers, 102-92.

The short-handed Pacers had fewer options of their own to turn to with ankle injuries keeping Darren Collison and Tyler Hansbrough sidelined. After a strong first-half effort, though, they had to be frustrated to be trailing 50-49 at the half. Twice the Pacers pushed the lead to six and had a nice offensive flow going, appearing to be on the verge of building up that lead. The Hawks countered from 3-land, though as Jeff Teague and Jamal Crawford hit a few shots from behind the arc to wipe out the first lead and then Mike Bibby caught fire cashing in three more 3-balls as part of his 13-point second quarter.

While the threes were flowing, the Hawks adjusted their offense to work through Josh Smith in the post  where the Pacers struggled to guard him with James Posey or anyone else. Smith's six points late in the second quarter was a sign of things to come as the high-flying forward was too much for the Pacers to handle in the second half. Not only did Smith finish with 25 points and 8 rebounds, he also swatted 7 shots and altered a few more along the way.

The Pacers were down double-digits much of the second half after that first half offensive flow came to a screeching halt in the third quarter when the home team could only muster 16 points. The Pacers were able to hang around even though the Hawks appeared firmly in control and eventually cut the deficit down to five midway through the fourth quarter.

The Pacers were working through Roy Hibbert at the high post and Hibbert wasn't finishing shots real well late in the game but his passing out of the post kept the other players moving, opening up good shots. The Hawks then leaned on another option, with Al Horford knocking down mid-range jumpers that would eventually seal the win for the Hawks.

While Horford was doing his thing, Jim O'Brien took out Roy Hibbert for a couple of minutes when the lead was still only seven points. The Hawks were playing small and struggling to cover the pick 'n pop which was surely part of the reason Hibbert was pulled. But the move disrupted anything the Pacers had going at the offensive end. Once Hibbert returned the lead was back to ten and the Hawks would close it out in impressive fashion.

After the jump, a few more thoughts and observations. 

  • After the game, Mike Dunleavy said that the Pacers just didn't have the energy they need against the Hawks and seemed a little lifeless. I'm not buying that. Danny Granger brought a lot of energy early in the game and really seemed to relish the opportunity to defend Joe Johnson. Granger also finished with 22 points, 6 rebounds, 2 blocks and a steal on only 14 field goal attempts.
  • Dunleavy may have projected his lifeless feel to the rest of his teammates. Dun finished with 14 points but didn't take a shot until late in the first half and his four turnovers and four fouls added up for a sub-par performance for Dunleavy after a few nice games of late.
  • Roy Hibbert was huge in the first half and more than held his own in his matchup with Horford. Hibby finished with 18 points, 15 rebounds and 3 assists compared to Horford's 15, 6 and 3. In reality though, they weren't matched up against each other a lot and Horford held the advantage at winning time down the stretch of the fourth quarter. Of course, it helped that he was on the court.
  • T.J. Fordmade an impact early playing heavy minutes at point guard with Darren Collison out for the night. Ford's impact waned in the second half, but he did play a clean game at the point with zero turnovers. The Pacers did have 15 turnovers which certainly hurt their cause, but none of those were on Ford.
  • A.J. Price made his season debut and like everyone else looked better in the first half than the second. Price did finish with 7 points and 2 assists in 10 minutes of run.
  • Brandon Rush really pitched in on the defensive end for a stretch in the first half, but other than that rarely made his presence felt. Aside from his first game back, Rush hasn't done anything offensively to help the Pacers off the bench. So when will JOB give Paul George a few of Rush's minutes to see if the rook is figuring things out?
  • The Hawks entered the game shooting just 32% from 3-land, averaging about 5 long ones per game. Tonight the Hawks knocked down 8 of 14 threes, as they seemed to be able to do whatever they needed to secure the W.
  • Roy Hibbert entered the game leading the league in blocks per game at 3.00, just ahead of Josh Smith's 2.91 average. After the game, Smith's 7-block performance vaulted him to the top spot with 3.25 per game while Hibbert's one block pushed him down the list at 2.78 per game.
  • The Pacers are now 4-5 with the L.A. Clippers coming to town on Thursday. The Pacers need that win to even up their record once again before the schedule gets nasty.