The Indiana Pacers needed a little bit from a lot of different guys to hold on late against an Atlanta Hawks team determined to keep their winning streak alive. The Pacers did their part to help the Hawks out early by falling behind 12-2 and missing their first eight shots. They trimmed the lead to three, but again fell behind after a pair of Atlanta threes, trailing 20-11 with five minutes left in the first.
The Pacers eased themselves into the game in a large part due to their ability to get to the free throw line. They outscored the Hawks 11-2 from the line in the first quarter, pushing them to a 32-31 first quarter advantage after taking the lead on an 11-0 run. The Hawks led by as many as seven late in the second quarter, torching the Pacers from behind the arc, as well on the offensive glass.
Atlanta had five of their 11 offensive rebounds in the second quarter, leading nine second chance points. Combined with 50% shooting from three point range, the Hawks would again score 30+ in the quarter, leading by three at the break after scoring 67. The pattern continued into the third quarter when Atlanta continued their hot shooting from three point range to keep Indiana at arms’ length for much of the quarter.
After about nine minutes of “one step forward, two steps back” basketball, the Pacers finally broke through on five straight points from Cory Joseph. The lead would be short lived, but eight straight to close the quarter put Indiana up seven heading into the fourth. They would hold Atlanta off in the fourth, but not for lack of trying from the Hawks, who got a big quarter from Kent Bazemore.
The inability to get stops ultimately did the Hawks in, as they allowed Indiana to score 34 points in the fourth, completing a night of four straight 30-point quarters. In a game that was all about offense, it was ultimately decided during Indiana’s 14-3 run to close the third. The Hawks were just 1-5 in that run, going 1-4 from three point range. After shooting 50% to that point, those misses proved too much to overcome against an Indiana offense that was rolling.
The Pacers shot 55.4% on the night, impressive considering they did miss their first eight of the game. They tied their season high with 35 assists, getting four different players with five or more on the night. The ball movement did wonders for the three point game as well. Even with the Hawks shooting at a high rate, Indiana would eventually overtake the Hawks in three point shooting percentage for the game, shooting 13-27 for the night.
Eight of the nine rotation players for the Pacers reached double figures, everyone stepping up with big stretches to help push Indiana over the top. Thaddeus Young led the Pacers in scoring with 21 points, doing so on 9-12 shooting. He had two offensive rebounds, leading to five points, including a crucial late game tip-in in the final two minutes, and followed a blocked dunk with a buzzer beating three to end the third.
Victor Oladipo's attempt at ending the third quarter with a dunk is denied, but Thad Young picks up the loose ball and hits a three!— FOX Sports Indiana (@FSIndiana) December 27, 2018
The #Pacers are on FSI and the FOX Sports app right now. pic.twitter.com/nMx9ZtrMlZ
Tyreke Evans returned to the lineup after missing time with a knee and played perhaps his best game with the Pacers. He finished with 19 points on 7-9 shooting, including a perfect 4-4 night from three point range. Evans not only scored with confidence, but made plays with as much confidence, finishing with five assists and just one turnover.
The starters were a bit turnover happy for the game, but the bench backcourt was excellent with ball control. Evans’s lone turnover was the only one between he and Cory Joseph, who had six assists on his own. Joseph was a big part of Indiana’s defense, coming up with three steals, all leading to buckets. Indiana on the night had 24 points off turnovers, but did a poor job keeping Atlanta from scoring in the same position, allowing 21.
Joseph’s energy was huge late in the third quarter when it came time for the Pacers to get into the drivers’ seat. He had seven of Indiana’s points in the 14-3 run, later assisting three times in the fourth. Domantas Sabonis was, unsurprisingly, a favorite receipent of passes from Evans and Joseph, leading to a 19 point, eight rebound night from the big man.
He was assisted on all seven of his made baskets, which held true as well for Myles Turner, who had 11. Turner’s night was nothing but ups and downs. Very early foul trouble limited Turner in the first quarter, which seemed to extend to his mind being in the game. He struggled to be in position to catch passes, letting a handful just fly out of reach.
When he did focus in, he was efficient, shooting 5-9, including a lights out corner three. Turner has made corner threes a lethal part of his game, shooting 5-7 on the year from the corners, a big step up from last year when he was just 3-14. The success of Indiana’s offense overshadowed the 17 turnovers, but Turner’s slower reactions along with Bojan Bogdanovic looking to be forcing things did stand out.
Bogdanovic shot just 3-10 from the field, his lone three of six attempts coming in the final minutes of the first half to help Indiana keep pace with the Hawks, but he did a great job on the night getting to the line, going 9-10 to help him finish with 16. Victor Oladipo also finished with 16, getting others involved, while hitting one of the many big shots Indiana had in the fourth to trade punches with the Hawks.
He and Darren Collison combined for 15 assists, with Oladipo picking up seven to Collison’s eight. Four of Oladipo’s assists came after a Hawks bucket, setting up three different players in a good position for big time shots. Collison was big early in the game in terms of hitting shots, scoring seven of his 11 in the opening quarter to give Indiana some life in terms of shooting after their horrid start. He had just one turnover himself, the lowest among the starters.
The 129 the Pacers scored tonight was their second highest of the season, and they needed almost every point in order to come up with their third straight win. For the first time in a month, they allowed an opponent to score above their season average, and let the Hawks shoot over 50%, just the third opponent to do so, and the first win for the Pacers under such circumstances.
The Pacers also improve to 23-12, moving them to 10-2 over their last 12 games. They’re third in the East, a game up on Philly and a game behind the Central leading Bucks. Their 17-5 record against the East is tops and they can continue to build off of their recent success as they have seven straight games against Eastern teams coming up, beginning with the first matchup of the year against the Detroit Pistons on Friday at home.