The Indiana Pacers faced a familiar foe in their third game of a five game road trip, facing streaking Atlanta Hawks, winners of 13 consecutive games. For Indiana, the story has been vastly different than Atlanta's, the Pacers looking to end the Hawks' winning streak while also ending their five game losing streak.
The Pacers managed to keep within striking distance of the Hawks early, with eight points from C.J. Miles to close the first quarter putting Indiana down only four at 25-21. A sluggish start to the second quarter opened the door for Atlanta to push the game into double figures, using a 12-2 run to go up 37-23. Things were difficult for the Pacers in even keeping the game within striking distance, an unfortunate rematch Indiana had with Houston on Monday.
Despite trailing by 11 at the half and just nine after the first bucket of the third quarter, things spiraled out of control quickly for the Pacers, as the Hawks this time used a 13-2 run, including three three pointers, to push the game to a 20-point Hawks advantage at 65-45. Through the rest of the quarter, Indiana could barely tread water, trailing 88-64 after the third quarter.
Indiana held the Hawks scoreless for the first three and a half minutes of the third quarter, cutting the lead to 13 on a 12-1 run. That's as close as the Pacers would get, the Hawks pushing their lead back to as many as 19, holding the Pacers way at bay for a relatively easy 110-91 victory, as the Pacers slip into their sixth straight loss, while the Hawks win their 14th straight.
Tonight's loss was, much like the Houston loss, not much of a surprise given the Pacers facing another big talent deficit on the road. Indiana fell behind from the outset, and couldn't muster up enough to take the lead, and even if they did, it was going to be a tall order keeping the Hawks in their rear view. Especially when the Pacers shot only 39.7% and had another woeful night from behind the arc at 5-25.
The Pacers also allowed 23 points in points off turnovers, turning it over 18 times on 12 steals by the Hawks, which helped them to 18 fast break points. The Hawks as a whole hummed along as they have much of the season, assisting on 30 of their 39 shots, shooting 50%, hitting 13 three pointers on the night. About the only thing Atlanta struggled doing was closing the deal at the free throw line, shooting just 19-26, while Indiana was 24-26, a rare time when the Pacers proved better at the line.
Of course, it was a small consolation for being over matched in general. Indiana was especially outworked in their front court; the Hawks were led by DeMarre Carroll, who had 17, while Indiana's entire front court combined for just 20. David West led the front court with nine points and 11 rebounds, but his own poor stretches of play were only overshadowed by the poor overall play of Roy Hibbert.
Hibbert reverted back to his self against Atlanta in the past, scoring just four points on 1-4 shooting in a limited 20 minutes of action, giving way to an equally ineffective Ian Mahinmi (2 & 4). Frank Vogel looked for answers, inserting Shayne Whittington, who played well in his eight minutes of action, scoring eight points, with a rebound and assist to his name. Whittington's defense left plenty to the imagination, but in a lost case as tonight's game was, why not?
Though as has been the trend this season, Indiana's bench offered up its own positives, led by C.J. Miles, who scored 18 points to lead the Pacers. Miles had two of Indiana's five three pointers, though aimed up plenty of misses on his way to eight attempts. Luis Scola shot poorly as well (2-6), but scored 10 points thanks to six trips to the free throw line, with seven rebounds.
The Pacers also got double figure nights from Rodney Stuckey and C.J. Watson, who scored 12 & 13 respectively in starting roles tonight. They opened up with Indiana's first 10 points, setting the tone for what would be a back court showing from the starting unit. Solomon Hill played a bigger offensive role in stretches, but in seven points, including 1-4 from three. Indiana's biggest victory on the night, however, may have been holding Kyle Korver to only two three pointers, snapping a nine game streak in which he had hit three or more.
Indiana's current six game losing streak is their third such streak of the season, which explains the 15-29 record the Pacers currently lay claim to. The Pacers will continue their five game road trip, a six game losing streak and a four game road losing streak into Miami to face the struggling Heat, who Indiana has beaten in both meetings on the year. Things can probably get worse than they currently are, but a similar effort to their past two outings may prevent things from heading in such a direction.