Hawks End Losing Streak With Win Over NBA-Best Pacers

Wednesday, January 8, 2014
By Robby Kalland

Indiana Pacers v Atlanta Hawks

The Hawks came into Wednesday on a three-game losing streak but dominated the Pacers, owners of the NBA’s best record, from the tip. The Hawks jumped out to a 12-0 lead in the first four and a half minutes of the game and never led by fewer than eight points after that. The Pacers, already on the second game of a back-to-back, were missing Lance Stephenson, their second leading scorer, due to a right knee contusion. The tired and short-handed Pacers shot just 40.2% from the field, 33.3% from the three-point line, and only got to the free throw line nine times.

Hawks vs. Pacers
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Game Recap

The Hawks defense did a great job forcing the Pacers into jump shots, and when they did get to the rim the Hawks were there with a strong contest. Roy Hibbert played only 22 minutes and was limited to two points and four rebounds on 1-of-8 shooting, and on defense, he was not effective as the Hawks stretched the floor with Pero Antic to draw Hibbert out of the lane where he is so dominant.

Antic finished with 16 points and four rebounds in 27 minutes, and was 3-of-6 shooting from three-point range. Antic made a pair of first quarter threes, forcing Hibbert and the rest of Indiana’s bigs to respect his range on pick-and-pops, which freed up driving lanes for Jeff Teague. Antic’s range on offense and strong defense along with Elton Brand, were crucial in the Hawks making Hibbert uncomfortable, and ultimately leading to him being out of the game.

“I have to read [the pick-and-roll/pop],” Antic said. “After a make [a three], I have to mix it up. One time I pop, one time I roll, just to mix it up and play good defense on him. Today the big guys, me, EB, Paul, all did a good job, and when he rolled inside [on defense] to help to his teammates, we knocked down those shots.”

“[Pero] played great tonight,” Teague said. “He stretched the floor. He shot the basketball and then he competed on the defensive end. He made it tough for Hibbert tonight, and that’s what we needed.”

Paul George came alive in the second half after the Hawks took a 25-point lead in the third quarter, and led the Pacers’ rally to get it back to a manageable deficit, but the Pacers were never able to fully reel in the Hawks. George finished with 28 points and 12 rebounds, but he was just 11-of-25 from the field and 3-of-10 from three-point range. DeMarre Carroll was very good defensively, taking away George’s driving lanes while still contesting on his jump shots. Coach Bud was very pleased with the Hawks’ defensive effort as a team and Carroll’s play individually.

“I thought the competitive spirit from the very beginning was excellent. It showed on the defensive end. It was one of our best defensive games. In particular the first half, the activity and the energy were very high. DeMarre Carroll, on an individual basis, really set the tone for us with his defense and activity.”

For the Hawks, great defense gave them opportunities on the offensive end. In the pre-game, Coach Bud said that keeping the Pacers from setting their half-court defense would be key, and the Hawks were able to execute that plan very well, especially in the first half. The Pacers league leading defense was allowing just 88.6 points per game entering this contest, but the Hawks, by getting defensive stops, were able to get into their sets quicker, not allowing the Pacers defense to settle in.

“I think the defense fueled the offense, and fueled the energy we played offense with. I thought there was just a commitment on the defensive end that spilled over to the offense. People were moving and the ball was moving. We were sharper and crisper; that’s just sometimes how it works. It’s just an energy you get from playing good defense.”

After shooting 30.4% from three-point range over the past five games, the Hawks were 10-of-23 (43.5%) from the three-point line on the night, led by Antic and Kyle Korver with three each. Korver extended his three-point streak to 105 games with a four-point play, the seventh of his Hawks’ career, in the third quarter and had 15 of his team-high 17 points in the second half.

The Hawks got a balanced effort from the entire team as Teague and Mike Scott had 15 points each and Carroll had 11 points to join Korver and Antic in double-figures. Even with a poor shooting night from Paul Millsap, two points on 1-of-10 shooting with six rebounds and five assists, the Hawks were able to find enough offense against the NBA’s top defensive team.

The Hawks’ ball-movement was crisp as they had 27 assists on 34 made shots, and they were aggressive attacking the Pacers at the rim, helped by Hibbert being drawn out of the paint or being out of the game altogether, as the Hawks had 22 free throw attempts and made 19.

“We’re trying to re-figure things without Al,” said Korver. “It’s going to take a little bit of time. We’re still not there, but I thought tonight was a really great game for our team. We had balanced scoring. Jeff really ran the show well. We knew where we were supposed to be. We had a great film session yesterday. Coach really pointed out a lot of things. We’ve been playing hard the last few games, but we haven’t always been organized. We want to keep playing free, but we need to have a little more organization. I thought our spacing was great tonight, and we played with pace.”

After losing a few games recently after holding a fourth quarter lead, the Hawks made a conscious effort to play with more pace rather than slowing down trying to milk the clock too much. There were a few late possessions where the Hawks still dribbled the clock down to single-digits before running a late pick-and-roll, which were unsuccessful. When the Hawks kept their half-court tempo up, they were much more effective and it helped them seal the game after the past few disappointing results.

“[The focus was] to play with better pace than them the whole game and compete throughout the whole game against one of the best teams in the league,” Antic said. “I’m happy we get the win and get back to the winning road.”

“Coach kept on saying that, even two, three, four minutes to play, ‘Keep on running, keep on playing with pace,'” Korver said. “It’s easy to say, let’s slow down and get a good shot, but often times you don’t get a good shot, especially against them. When they have their defense set, they’re the best defensive team in the NBA by all the stats, they lead in every category. You don’t want to play against their set defense…I thought we kept on going at them.”

The Hawks win was a much needed boost in the standings and for the team’s psyche after losing three consecutive close games. The Hawks will be tested again on Friday night, as the Rockets come to Philips Arena for their lone visit of the season.

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Photo by Kevin C. Cox/NBAE/Getty Images

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