The Indiana Pacers wrapped up 2018 on a (mostly) high note, extending their winning streak to five games after defeating the Atlanta Hawks for the third time this season. The Pacers are now 3-0 against Atlanta this season, winning by eight in each game. After scoring just 89 in November, the Hawks have ramped up their offense against the Pacers, becoming just the third team to reach triple figures against the Pacers multiple times this season.
That was certainly on display early, when the high-energy Hawks blitzed the Pacers out of the gates, scoring 20 points in the first six minutes of action to go up seven. The Pacers managed to clamp down defensively, going on a 17-1 run and holding Atlanta to just five points in the second half of the quarter.
Doug McDermott would push the lead to 12 early in the second, but the Hawks bounced back, scoring 21 in four minutes to go up 53-51. The teams would go back and forth until the final minute, when Myles Turner stepped up, scoring seven straight Pacers points, including a buzzer beating three to put Indiana ahead by three at the break. The play was set up brilliantly by Victor Oladipo, who dished to Turner after attacking the paint.
The good feelings for Oladipo and Turner continued out of the break, the duo scoring seven to push the lead to eight. After back-to-back threes from Turner and Bojan Bogdanovic, the Pacers had pushed the lead into double figures with Turner and Oladipo combining for 17 points and four assists.
Unfortunately, Turner’s night would come to an end after hitting his third three of the night. Turner hit in the corner and got back on defense, blocking John Collins at the rim. After the block, Collins popped Turner in the face, leading to a bloody nose and exit from the game. He wouldn’t return as the team ruled his injury a broken nose.
The Pacers would close the quarter strong behind big play from Domantas Sabonis and Tyreke Evans, with the latter hitting a pair of threes, including a buzzer beater of his own to push the lead to 16.
Reke's turn to beat the buzzer! pic.twitter.com/36VP3Pmr91— Indiana Pacers (@Pacers) December 31, 2018
The effort of the Hawks would keep them alive despite the deficit. They would use second chance opportunities as they had all night to chip away at the lead, cutting it to seven with under four to go. To that point in the quarter, the Pacers had struggled defensively, but they amped it up, getting consecutive steals to layups, pushing the lead to double figures.
Again, Atlanta wasn’t done, with Kevin Heurter hitting his sixth three, joined by Trae Young in cutting the lead to six. The Pacers would eventually come up with stops, but not without allowing extra possessions, and would eventually get an opportunity to ice the game with Oladipo at the line, resulting in the victory.
The Pacers did a good job competing with Atlanta’s energy for much of the game, but did struggle to come up with stops. The Hawks came up with a staggering 21 offensive rebounds, leading to 17 second chance points. Collins and Alex Len combined for 12 as the duo also combined for 41 points.
Indiana did get solid contributions on their own to contend with big nights from the Hawks, led by Oladipo with 22 points. He was just 9-19 shooting, but looked as comfortable as he has since his return from injury. He was attacking and moving easier, which led to seven assists and five steals.
As a team, the Pacers had 13 steals as part of 17 Atlanta turnovers. With Oladipo’s five steals, Thaddeus Young and Bogdanovic combined for five, outscoring the Hawks 21-14 in points off turnovers. The Pacers also had 27 fast break points, including some great stuff from Darren Collison, as part of his 12 point night.
The broken nose turned out to be an unfortunate situation for Turner, who was piecing together one of his best games of the year prior to his exit. He finished with 20 points, eight rebounds, and four blocks in just 23 minutes of action, shooting 7-9 from the floor and 3-4 from deep.
On the bright side, Turner and the rest of the team doesn’t seem overly concerned with the injury. Turner will no doubt be outfitted in a facemask, which can only hope to not unsettle Turner’s confident play but the other potential lingering issue is that the team will need to find out where Turner stands in relation to a concussion, which could change matters. Indiana did have another injury during the game after McDermott exited with a sprained ankle after coming down on Heurter after a three.
After Turner’s exit, the Pacers got a lot of big minutes from Sabonis, who played out the game, finishing with 20 points and eight rebounds of his own. He was joined in double figures off the bench by Evans with 10. Cory Joseph scored seven to help Indiana’s bench outscore Atlanta’s, but they benefited more from Atlanta’s poor shooting in the second unit rather than simply outplaying them given they were constantly beaten on rebounds and hustle plays, especially by Vince Carter.
The Pacers improve to 25-12 on the season after the win, finishing December at 12-3. Their three losses came by just five points and of course two of them were later highlighted as mistakes in the two-minute report. The Pacers as a team have really come into their own in the 2018 calendar year.
Last season, they entered 2018 at 19-18, coming together and going 57-31 including playoffs over the next 12 months. They lost no more than two games at once, the only team in the league to do so and have set themselves up nicely heading into the 2019 portion of this season, third in the East, two games clear of fourth place Philadelphia.
Heading into the New Year, the Pacers will hit the road for a five game Eastern swing, beginning on Friday against the Chicago Bulls. The trip will be long, but will give the Pacers a chance to improve their 11-7 road record with big games looming against Toronto and Boston during the trip.
From everyone here at Indy Cornrows, thank you for being with us for 2018. There’s no better time to be a Pacers fan than now and we hope you’ll join us for the ride in what will no doubt be an exciting 2019.