It took a little more than maybe expected for the Indiana Pacers to extend their winning streak to five games, but a combination of lethargic play early and a 49-point outing from Trae Young put them in a precarious position against a struggling Atlanta Hawks team, thrusting them into overtime for the second time on the first night of a back-to-back.
The Pacers, on the heels of a rather lopsided shot chart between the starters and Myles Turner, appeared to focus in on balancing the stat sheet by feeding Turner early. There was a noticeable discomfort in Turner’s shot early, but everyone seemed to have a weird flow about them on the offensive end, stumbling to 22 first quarter points, trailing by a point heading into the second.
The struggles continued into the second quarter when the bottom fell out on the Pacers. Not only was the starting lineup a mess, but so too was the second unit, which worked well in the favor of a better effort for Atlanta. The Hawks used a 21-3 run in the quarter to jump ahead by 18 points with just over four minutes remaining.
The Pacers finally stopped the bleeding at the free throw line, but as seemed to be a common theme throughout the first half, what little positives Indiana did have was immediately dashed as both Domantas Sabonis and Turner split trips to the line, dropping the Pacers to 6-10 from the line to that point.
Alex Len made it a 54-38 game for Atlanta with juts over two minutes in the half all while Malcolm Brogdon turned the ball over on the ensuing possession on a charge. With bad going to worse, the Pacers dug deep to lock in and hold the Hawks scoreless for those last two minutes. Unfortunately, they couldn’t really capitalize on the offensive end, scoring just five points to make it an 11-point halftime deficit.
Around this time, the decision to feed Turner began paying off. Turner had six to close the first half and brought out the turnaround jumper to open the third to get the Pacers to within double figures. Jeremy Lamb followed up with eight of the next 10 points to help the Pacers tie the game 57-57.
Unfortunately, Indiana’s offense still struggled to break through thanks to their inability to finish at the rim or hit three pointers, which allowed Young and the Hawks to continue to stay on top. Though the Hawks managed to hold onto their lead for much of the quarter, the Pacers defense really locked in, helmed by Turner inside. The Pacers had six blocks in the third quarter, four of those coming from Turner.
With two minutes in the third, the Pacers again tied the game thanks to Aaron Holiday. T.J. Warren finally broke the Pacers into the lead with back-to-back buckets and a T.J. McConnell pass off of his own miss set up Turner for a big time three, extending the lead to seven heading into the fourth.
In the third, the Pacers outscored the Hawks 29-11, a score that was both rewarding defensively, but frustratingly low on the offensive side due to the staggering number of bricks inside. Indiana missed nine shots in the paint in the quarter and even failed to make those miscues work for them until the end of the quarter when they had seven second chance points in the final three minutes.
Those misses were important because even though the Pacers had swung the momentum in their favor, Young continued to prove that momentum lasted only as long as the next Hawks possession. Young opened the fourth with a three, scoring eight points in a 12-4 run to regain the lead for the Hawks.
With the bench struggling to score and three pointers at a premium for the Pacers, it was as good a time as ever for Doug McDermott to respond with back-to-back threes. After this, Justin Holiday picked up a steal and layup and make it an 8-0 run, putting the Pacers back up by seven.
Even that wasn’t enough to put the Pacers in control of the game as Young continued to will the Hawks back into it. Young scored seven more in a 10-2 Atlanta run that again put them on top with five minutes left. The return of Turner to the game at that point provided a much needed defensive presence to remove, well, everyone except Young from the game.
A pair of free throws form Sabonis put the Pacers on top 94-92 with 1:23 remaining. Defensively, Indiana would hold up on the next two possessions, but terrible turnovers from Turner and Brogdon kept the door open just enough for Young to tie the game with a floater with 11 seconds left. On the other end, Brogdon missed the game winner inside, sending the Pacers to overtime for the second time in the season.
In the extra period, Lamb and Turner scored the first five of the overtime period, but again, turnovers would keep the Pacers from building on their lead and again, Young would be in position to bring Atlanta right back in the game, hitting a three and then finding Len wide open underneath to tie the game at 99-99 with 1:26 remaining. On offense, Brogdon passed out of the double team to Sabonis, who then found Warren in the corner, who then...
...put the Pacers up three, helping them to the 105-104 win after Young book-ended the game with his eighth three pointer, two more than the Pacers made as a team.
The decision to feed Turner early created an absurdly balanced scoring load from the starting unit, though again, no one played well enough to carry the team beyond stretches. Lamb was the most efficient Pacer with 20 points on 9-15 shooting. Turner and Sabonis would finish with 17 points each.
Sabonis pulled in 12 rebounds to complete another double double, but none of his five offensive rebounds resulted in second chance points, including an odd stretch where he airballed two layups in a row early in the fourth. Turner meanwhile had six rebounds to go alongside his four blocks, making a huge impact on the game defensively in the second half and settling into some big time shots after struggling early.
The bench struggled in a big way to provide any scoring punch on the night, led by McDermott, who had eight. Justin Holiday did provide a big spark off the bench, totaling four steals during his run in the second half. On the night, the Pacers forced 24 Atlanta turnovers, scoring 23 points.
The Pacers improve to 12-6 with the win, but will have a quick turnaround when they hit the road for the first of five games, facing the Philadelphia 76ers for the first time on the year. The Sixers, like three other teams atop the East are undefeated at home, setting up a difficult challenge for Indiana, possibly even more after the big minutes logged by the starting unit.