The Atlanta Hawks continued their run of strong play on Sunday with a blowout 104-75 win over the Indiana Pacers at Philips Arena. While Saturday's win over the Grizzlies could be classified as sloppy, Sunday's effort was anything but. Atlanta grabbed control early on and stepped on the Pacers throat with a 20-0 run in the third to coast home for the victory.
"It's a good win. I think we caught them in a tough spot, on a back-to-back," Mike Budenholzer said following the game. "Defensively and offensively, that's close to what we'd like to look like, where we're playing at a high level on both ends. Pace...not just getting into the offense, but once we were into the offense, the movement in a lot of ways, including the ball movement, was good. It's a good win. A lot of guys played well on both ends of the court, which is what we've been wanting."
Defensively, the Hawks have been on point since the calendar flipped to 2016. Atlanta has risen to second in the league in defensive rating behind the San Antonio Spurs. However, their offensive production has slipped into the bottom third of the league.
The offense caught up with the defense in Sunday's win and the result was predictably a blowout. Atlanta shot 47 percent from the field and knocked down 15 three-point baskets along the way. The ball movement was crisp with 27 assists on 40 made baskets.
"Between the ball moving, a couple of guys making shots," Budenholzer said when asked about the big third quarter run. "Kyle obviously made a couple of three's. Paul made a couple of threes....you can get into a situation where the points can add up quickly. Hopefully, we're making it difficult for them to guard us."
As has been the case for much of the second half, the Hawks' defense was downright stingy. Atlanta outscored the Pacers 37-18 in the third and held them to just 32 percent shooting in the period. Indiana finished at 38 percent shooting for the game with the Hawks winning the rebounding battle by a 50-38 margin.
"You have to get the stops on the other end to make it happen," Budenholzer added. "There were a lot of examples offensively, and that was close to how we'd like to play on a regular basis."
While the offense got in gear, it was the defense that set the tone early and the Hawks particularly clamped down on the Pacers' top two scoring options. Paul George and Monta Ellis combined for 17 points but were just 7 for 24 from the field. George finished the game 3 for 15 and seven of Ellis' 10 points came in the third quarter. Atlanta did a great job of running them off the three-point line and forcing them to take tough contested shots from the midrange area.
"Sometimes you catch a good break," Budenholzer said when asked about the defensive effort against George and Ellis. "Those are two great players. This the fourth time we've played them. One of them, if not both of them, has had big games against us. I'm sure we're not any different than the rest of the league. They're hard to control, hard to contain. We worked as hard as we could. Tonight, I feel like we caught a little bit of a break. The defense was good. I want to give the defense credit, but those are two great players that are hard to control."
With the win, the Hawks improved to 38-29 on the season and are just percentage points behind the Charlotte Hornets and a half game back of fourth place Miami. Perhaps more importantly, they moved 2.5 games in front of the Pacers who are currently seventh.
"They beat us the first two times, so we knew it was important for us to come out with that type of energy," Al Horford answered when asked about beating a Pacers team that was also battling for playoff positioning. We're a much better team than we were even a month ago. So I'm satisfied with what we were able to do tonight."
Dennis Schröder back as the backup point guard
Dennis Schröder played just three minutes in Saturday's win over the Memphis Grizzlies as Mike Budenholzer elected to go with veteran Kirk Hinrich as the team's backup point guard. Budenholzer told reporters on Sunday that Schröder would be back as the backup and that it wasn't in the plans to make a permanent rotation change.
Budenholzer said it wasn't "in the plans" to see a rotation change featuring Hinrich. Added later that Schröder "will be the backup".— Peachtree Hoops (@peachtreehoops) March 13, 2016
Budenholzer made sure to qualify those comments with the fact that every game is different but not expecting an extended Schröder absence.— Peachtree Hoops (@peachtreehoops) March 13, 2016
Schröder responded by playing well finishing with eight points and five assists while going 4 for 8 from the field.