The Indiana Pacers did enough to get back on the winning track tonight, topping the Atlanta Hawks on the road. The Pacers did so by winning all four quarters, none by more than five points, having to contend with a combative Hawks team that blitzed the Pacers early with easy buckets inside.
Indiana’s defense was a major liability early, but they were slowly able to settle themselves and equally as slowly build any kind of workable lead. It wasn’t until the second half that they built a two-possession lead and it wasn’t until the fourth quarter that they finally broke through into double figures.
Atlanta would close the game on a 10-0 run in garbage time to trim off a 20-point Pacers lead, but in a take-care-of-business game, the Pacers ultimately came through to close out the win. This moves the Pacers to 10-2 in games against non-playoff teams, which may not do much good for their draft position, but does show the effort and focus this team brings to every game, a comforting reward when considering last year’s inconsistency.
The Pacers saw a good bounce back in individual performances including Bojan Bogdanovic, who scored 19 points. He went just 1-5 from three point range, but did a majority of his scoring at the rim, with 12 points in the paint.
Afterwards, he spoke with Jeremiah Johnson about how difficult the past couple of days have been after the pass that cost the Pacers their win against Boston, showing gratitude to his teammates.
Bogdanovic after #Pacers beat #Hawks: "I was down. I was terrible with my mind after that play. ... I had incredible support from all [my teammates]. I'm really happy to be here." pic.twitter.com/NkkPxOYgyg— FOX Sports Indiana (@FSIndiana) December 21, 2017
Myles Turner did a much better job of involving himself in tonight’s action after a woeful showing on Monday, finishing with 20 points, six rebounds, and three blocks. Like Bogdanovic, Turner did plenty of damage inside, while also working himself to the free throw line and going a perfect 7-7.
Off the bench, the Pacers got a big boost from both Cory Joseph and Lance Stephenson, who finished in double figures with 11 and 10 points respectively. Stephenson coupled his scoring with eight points and six assists, but it was the overall play of the bench (along with Domantas Sabonis and Joe Young) that helped the Pacers in finding their groove after a slow start
This play for example had five passes, beginning and ending with Stephenson for the jam after all five Pacers touched the ball.
It was also one of three assists by Domantas Sabonis, who still involved himself in the game on both ends despite only scoring four points. All nine rotation players scored, with Joe Young putting in a three and Thaddeus Young putting back one of his three offensive rebounds. Darren Collison reached double figures with 11 points.
As has been the case much of the season, the Pacers were led by Victor Oladipo with 23. Oladipo helped put the game on ice with eight fourth quarter points that extended an 11 point lead to 15, an important stretch that closed the door on the Hawks for good. Oladipo scored his 23 on 15 shots, hitting three threes, coming one free throw shy of completing both of his three point play attempts.
The long term growth of the Pacers will come in figuring out how to consistently beat quality opponents; after all, a 10-2 record against non-playoff teams means they’re just 8-12 against playoff opponents. However, the 82-game nature of the NBA schedule means there are just as many of both to play, and taking care of the games you should win has been a key part in the Pacers competing at the level they have so far this season.
The Pacers will have another prime opportunity to add a win on Saturday when they return home to face the Brooklyn Nets. The Pacers will be looking to not only grab a win, but will work to snap a three game losing streak at home before a break for Christmas.