Once again, late game execution doomed the Indiana Pacers, dropping them against the Atlanta Hawks. The Pacers, trailing all night, worked their way back into the game on multiple occasions, but their inability to stop runs allowed the Hawks to build their lead back to three possessions or more in an instant.
That happened for the fourth and final time heading into Winning Time. The Pacers managed to tie the game up at 107-107, fueled by some excellent offensive patience from Domantas Sabonis. Just over a minute later, the Pacers had ended up on the wrong side of a 10-2 run, empty possessions on back-to-back turnovers and a failure to rebound giving the Hawks a pair of timely threes.
Trae Young sunk the dagger on the following possession, ultimately giving the Hawks a 12-point win after methodical offense and a tipped-in free throw by Sabonis took the Pacers out of contention in a possible comeback. Indiana lost the fourth 35-27, their 11th fourth quarter loss in their last 12 games.
The Pacers dug their hole earlier than usual tonight, allowing a 12-0 Atlanta run early in the first quarter to give the Hawks a 30-10 lead. The Pacers couldn’t buy a bucket (5-18) while the Hawks lived on easy shots and alley oops (11-15). The second unit did close the quarter on a 13-5 run to at least give the Pacers some life.
The bench, with a returning Myles Turner, cut the lead to three at 46-43 with 5:07 remaining in the second quarter. The return of the starters, however, did not bode well, as the Hawks ran off an 8-2 run to go back up by nine, what would be the halftime difference. Indiana won the quarter, as they did the third, but it was once again a four-point deficit that swelled up 11, the Hawks managing to score five in the final minute to go up by four heading into the fourth.
A disastrous start to the quarter gave Atlanta an eight-point lead after Clint Capela pulled in four rebounds on a single possession before scoring. That’s when Sabonis’s offensive patience began to pay off, some nifty passes and timely buckets inching the Pacers back into it, eventually tying the game at 107-107 before it fell apart again.
It was a game dominated by Atlanta’s starters. They had four 20-point scorers, four of the top five scorers of the game. Young finished with 34, with Malcolm Brogdon scoring 29 on 11-18 shooting and eight assists. Sabonis had 18 & 15 while Caris LeVert was the only other starter in double figures with 11.
Turner struggled shooting his his return, going 2-9 with nine points. He had no blocks for the first time this season. He did rebound well with 11 boards and was generally a positive in his solo minutes, as the Indiana bench, led by 18 from McConnell, outscored Atlanta’s second unit 44-16.
Unfortunately, the Pacers weren’t really good enough at anything to seize control of the game, getting outscored in fast break points 15-11. No surprise Edmond Sumner brought some life to Indiana’s struggling fast break game, scoring 14 on the night with a trio of dunks.
The road-heavy Pacers post a losing road trip (1-2) for the first time in five trips away from Indianapolis, dropping them to 26-30 and putting them 4 1⁄2 games out of the top five of the East, closer to dropping out of the top 10 all together (3 games) than avoiding the play-in games or one of the East’s top three seeds.
With 16 games left, the Pacers will spend almost all of it at home, closing with 11 games at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. That hasn’t exactly been the haven the Pacers have been used to, posting the worst home record in the East at an improbable 9-16. They’ll begin with a game tomorrow night against the San Antonio Spurs.