The Indiana Pacers were without George Hill, Lance Stephenson, David West and remained without Danny Granger for tonight’s matchup against the Atlanta Hawks.
The Hawks have been known to give away games like this and did so on Monday in interesting fashion 100-94.
Devin Harris sat out with a nagging injury so Shelvin Mack, the native Butler graduate, filled in as back point guard for the Hawks. Coach Larry Drew opted to start Jeff Teague, Dahntay Jones, Josh Smith, Al Horford and Johan Petro, presumably to match the bigger Petro against the 7’2” Roy Hibbert with Zaza Pachulia being injured. However, it didn’t work out too well as Hibbert looked like the all-star caliber player he was last season, easily flipping in hook shots at will.
Indiana got off to a hot start behind new starters Tyler Hansbrough and D.J. Augustin. Paul George didn’t as he was up against Josh Smith. Smith faced him up and drove to the rim without resistance and/or went to the block and overpowered his matchup.
He had a fantastic sequence where he blocked Ian Mahinmi, dribbled to the far elbow and dished to Kyle Korver in the near elbow, who got fouled in the action of knocking down a 3-pointer. That bucket extended his streak to 64 straight games with a trifecta. Korver then went to the free-throw line and sank the attempt to convert the rare 4-point play.
In the second quarter, Jeff Pendergraph found his offensive groove and Orlando Johnson showed his ability to create for himself. They combined for 27 points on 11-of-14 shooting in the first half. The Pacers team shot 24-of-41 (58.5%) overall in that time.
It was more of the same in the third quarter with a George corner 3-pointer, the exclamation in what looked like a massacre. However, it didn’t pan out that way.
The Pacers went scoreless for a stretch in the fourth quarter with multiple unfortunate turnovers. The Hawks bench including Mike Scott, John Jenkins and Mack helped the Hawks go on a run. A looong run. A run that had the fans in Bankers Life Fieldhouse very antsy.
Alas, the effort would come up short.
Despite having multiple 20+ point deficits, the Hawks made a respectable game out of a near embarrassing blowout. A 31-15 fourth quarter march behind two rookies, two second year players and an injury-worn veteran showed a lot of heart.
Though the Hawks were unable to clinch a playoff berth on Monday, they will do so soon enough. And if by chance they meet the Indiana Pacers in the playoffs, they know the steps it will take to come out with a series win.