The Atlanta Hawks played very well on Sunday evening in toppling the Indiana Pacers.
Mike Budenholzer's team led virtually wire to wire on this night, taking control in the first half and stepping on the throttle in the third quarter. The end result was a 104-75 blowout victory, and a statement sent to the rest of the Eastern Conference.
Everything went according to plan in the early moments of Sunday's game and it was reflected on the scoreboard. The Pacers came out misfiring in the shooting department, and that allowed the Hawks to begin the night with a 16-2 run to establish some cushion. Indiana would, of course, make something of a run by scoring eight straight points midway through the period, but Atlanta quickly responded with seven consecutive points of their own to finish the quarter with a 30-17 lead.
While the Pacers were certainly battling, the Hawks did yeoman's work in keeping the visitors at bay throughout the second quarter, and much of that work came defensively. Indiana shot just 37% from the floor and 22% from three in the first 24 minutes, and Atlanta was able to pull away a bit before the halftime break by scoring the final seven points of the second quarter.
The first half was, in short, one of the better halves in recent memory for the Hawks. Atlanta's stifling defense helped to hold Paul George to just 3 points on 1 of 8 shooting, and the Pacers turned the ball over on 13 occasions. Offensively, Al Horford was the breakout player with 16 points (on 10 shots) and the Hawks were also able to connect on seven threes (on just 15 attempts) to take advantage of Indiana's defensive mistakes.
After a lackadaisical start to the second half, the Hawks would turn on the afterburners and simply race away from the Pacers. Atlanta exploded for a 20-0 that was kickstarted by eight straight points from Paul Millsap, and after Kyle Korver knocked down two threes as part of the spurt, the Hawks led 79-51. The Hawks weren't done there, either, pushing the overall run to 28-2 (!), and when the dust settled, the home team led by 33 points at the end of three quarters.
In short, the damage was done and the game was over at that point.
The entire starting five began the fourth quarter on the bench and would never return and, frankly, that is always a good sign. Indiana was never able to make even a faint charge at respectability and, in the end, the 104-75 result seemed fitting for the difference in play between the two teams on this night.
With the win, the Hawks now sit in a tie with the Charlotte Hornets for the fifth seed but, more importantly, Atlanta is playing some of its best basketball of the season. The team will now take two days off before traveling to Michigan to take on the Detroit Pistons. Stay tuned for all the action on Wednesday evening.