The Hawks sure put a whooping on the struggling Pacers, as Atlanta annihilated the team with the best home record in the NBA in their own house Sunday evening at Indiana 107-88.
The Pacers were a league-best 34-5 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse before Sunday’s blowout loss — they still boast the best home record, but it’s no doubt that this was the worst loss of the season for the slumping Indiana squad, who are now 3-8 in their last 11 games.
Indiana native Jeff Teague led five Hawks players in double-figures with a game-high 25 points. Interim center Pero Antic set a new career-high with 18 points, which he achieved on 7-of-8 shooting. All-Star power forward Paul Millsap posted a double-double with 17 points and 11 rebounds despite missing time in the third period after suffering a hand injury. Shelvin Mack added 13 points and a game-high seven assists off the bench, and Kyle Korver had a nice all-around game with 11 points on 5-of-7 shooting to go along with six rebounds and five assists.
It was a blowout from the opening tip, as the Hawks scored the first nine points of the game and led 17-3 after DeMarre Carroll drained a 3-pointer midway through the first quarter. Right after that, Pacers coach Frank Vogel called a timeout and took out his five starters for their lackluster effort and put in five bench players, but the move didn’t help as Atlanta went on to drop 33 in the period while limiting the Pacers to only 11 points.
The game was essentially over right then and there.
Indy continued to struggle and only added 12 points in the second quarter while Atlanta kept dropping buckets, and the home squad found themselves trailing by 32 points to a boarder-line playoff team at halftime.
The Hawks shot an impressive 55.3 percent from the field and 46.7 percent from 3-point range in the first half, while the Pacers were held to 20 percent overall, including a big ‘ol doughnut (0-of-7) from behind the arc. Indy only had 1 assist at halftime and it was from a bench player.
Indiana showed some fight coming out of halftime and shaved the deficit down to 20 points by the end of the third quarter.
However, the gap was too far to overcome and Atlanta cruised in the final period to an impressive 19-point victory.
Paul George led the Pacers with 18 points, albeit on 17 shot attempts. David West added 13 points, George Hill finished with 12, while Luis Scola and Ian Mahinmi each had 10 points off the bench.
Roy Hibbert only played nine minutes in the game and didn’t return after getting pulled with 8:52 left in the second quarter. He finished with 0 rebounds and 0 points on 0-for-5 shooting. His head clearly wasn’t in the game and his body language on the bench was downright dreadful.
Hibbert didn’t speak to reporters after the game. His coach tried to make excuses for him by saying “He looks worn down. He’s a 7-foot-2 player who has played every game this year, which is very rare. He looks to me to be worn down,” Vogel said. “He’s given good effort but he looks to me to be worn down. Combine that with the fact that they have a 3-point shooting 5-man most of the game. It’s a difficult matchup.”
Indiana, the NBA’s No. 1 defense, held the top overall seed in the East for majority of the season, however their recent skid has dropped them to the #2 seed, one game behind of the Miami Heat.
Meanwhile, the Hawks have just about guaranteed themselves a playoff spot as the eighth and final seed in the East with Sunday’s win, as they now have a 97.7 percent likelihood of making the post-season, according to John Hollinger’s Playoff Odds at ESPN.com.
Atlanta leads ninth-place New York by two games in the standings. The Knicks have four games left in the season, which means they’ll likely have to win all of them just to have a shot at the playoffs. On the other hand, the Hawks need just two more victories to clinch the final playoff spot. They own the tie-breaker over NY, so they’ll get in as the 8th seed even if they stumble down the stretch and finish the season with the same record as the Knicks.
The Hawks are back in action Tuesday night at home against Atlanta’s native son, and former face of the franchise, Josh Smith and the Detroit Pistons.
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