The Hawks tried out an original lineup without Josh Smith, with Lou inserted into the lineup as usual since the Bulls game, and Zaza and Al forming the front court. The answer was an offensive explosion and a 109-100 victory.
The Hawks came out guns ablaze, hitting two thirds of their shots in the first quarter including a Jenkins long bomb. Jenkins finished with 10 points, a career high, on 6 shots and essentially put in an application to join the rotation.
Al Horford regained the touch from midrange that helped him thrive in his All Star years and finished a precise 10-13. Horford and Zaza were just too much down low, combining for 37 points on 17-24 shooting and 20 rebounds. The Hawks held Roy Hibbert to goose eggs in the first half. Good news is he outdid himself in the second half by grabbing a solitary rebound in 21 minutes of play.
Lou Williams had 7 assists by the 9 minute mark of the second quarter and finished the first half with 9 assists which tied his career high. He dished out 9 assists twice in one week in early April 2010 with 76ers and earlier this December against Bobcats. He surpassed his career high in the third quarter en route to a 21 point and 12 assist outing.
The Hawks shot a crisp 61.5% including 5-9 from downtown in the first half, which was highest shooting percentage half of season. The Hawks finished 10-20 from beyond the arc, including 4-5 from Kyle Korver. Korver killed Indiana with his quick release and stifled Paul George and Gerald Green on defense to a degree.
Ivan Johnson intimidated his way to 6 points, 6 rebounds and 3 steals before fouling out in the fourth quarter. Johan Petro came in for possibly his most meaningful minutes of the season, hit two tough shots, and dished out 3 personal fouls.
David West could not be stopped whether it was Pachulia, Korver, or Horford guarding him. He finished 11-18 and hit his first two three pointers in the season for 29 points. Paul George also finished 2 assists and a rebound from a triple double. He took over the role of point forward and had more assists than all of the guards, Hill, Augustin and Stephenson.
In total, the offense looked like a fulfillment of what it was hyped to be preseason. The Hawks punished the lax Pacer defense with step back three pointers and drew Hibbert and Mahinmi out of the lane to open up the paint for Lou, Teague, and even the fearless Ivan. Scary to think this was all without Josh Smith, Devin Harris and Anthony Morrow.
The only downside to tonight was carelessness with the ball. The Hawks committed 16 turnovers, compared to 10 for the Pacers, and let the Pacers linger until the final horn. However, when you pick up a win without arguably the best player and two other rotation player over a top 4 Eastern team, there are few criticisms.
Next game is New Years Eve in Houston to get revenge on a Rockets team that handed the Hawks an opening night loss.
1. Lou Williams: Lou Williams was a facilitator for Al and Zaza running the pick and roll to perfection. They put in tons of easy buckets and Lou looked like a natural point guard, despite claiming to want to play off guard primarily. Did I mention he led the Hawks in scoring with 21 on 17 shots?
2. Al Horford: Horford was near automatic tonight. He challenged David West to step out to 18 feet to defend his jumper but West failed the test. He finished with 20 points, 6 rebounds and 6 assists.
3. Zaza Pachulia: Zaza Pachulia brought the energy from the tipoff and prove himself a lot more mobile than his counterparts in blue. He finished with 17 points on 7-11 shooting and cleaned up on the glass, outrebounding the Pacer front court by himself.