The Atlanta Hawks stunned the Indiana Pacers in the first round of the Las Vegas Summer League playoffs, erasing a 27-point deficit to eliminate the Pacers from an otherwise surefire win. The Pacers dominated the first half against Atlanta, jumping ahead 67-40 thanks to vastly superior effort and energy, but played shell-shocked when the Hawks began to catch fire early in the third.
All in all, the Pacers were outscored 67-34 in the last 19 minutes, made worse in the fourth quarter when Trae Young closed out the win with seven points and five assists in the final five minutes. Indiana’s success early came by forcing the Hawks into turnovers, but had just one in the entirety of the comeback.
The Pacers played complacent after playing hungry, a valuable lesson for the guys who never really got back into a groove after the Hawks took the lead. Aaron Holiday looked solid in the first half, but missed all six of his shots in the fourth quarter to finish with 13 on 5-17 shooting. He did have nine assists, including three in the fourth, but the Pacers needed a go-to with Young playing well late, and unfortunately couldn’t get it from him.
The Pacers were led in scoring by Alex Poythress with 21 points. In a Summer League environment for someone who won’t be on the team this season it may not matter much, but the Pacers went -16 from the time Poythress went to the bench in the third and came back in the fourth. He scored just two in the fourth.
T.J. Leaf looked his most confident tonight, scoring nine in the first half including a rare in-rhythm three pointer, but was held out of the second half with left knee soreness. That lack of a threat may have been a problem for the Pacers when they needed scoring, especially as they finished 5-18 from three point range, while the Hawks drilled 11.
Alize Johnson jumped into the starting lineup tonight and made the most of his slot with a 12 point, 14 rebound effort. Johnson had seven offensive rebounds and three assists, but continued to perplex with his missed opportunities at the rim, missing five shots in the paint.
Four starters reached double figures, including Travis Leslie, who finished with 12. Leslie gave the Pacers life in the closing seconds, earning three trips to the line and stealing the ball off of his third miss to complete a four point play.
Off the bench, the Pacers were led by Edmond Sumner, who followed up an excellent showing against Cleveland with a 4-5 night with three assists. Sumner’s confidence these last two games have been great to see and it pairs well with the confidence Ben Moore has showed this summer, scoring seven off the bench.
Disappointingly, the Pacers will wrap up their 2018 Summer League Friday afternoon when they face the Brooklyn Nets in the consolation bracket. The common theme of this year’s Summer League team has been an inability to play from behind. All three Pacers losses featured opportunities to stage a comeback late, but missed shots and failure to get stops continue to put them in the loss column.
In the end, however, wins and losses don’t really matter in Summer League, and the Pacers will have another opportunity on Friday to learn from their late game mistakes and close out their Las Vegas Summer League debut with a win.