The Atlanta Hawks lost to the Indiana Pacers tonight by a score of 104-86. Playing without any of the regular starters (who were resting for the playoffs), Atlanta fell to an Indiana team that needed a win to clinch a playoff spot. The Hawks locked up the fifth seed in the East last night, and tonight’s outcome solidified the final playoff spots at the bottom of the bracket.
The Hawks started Jose Calderon, DeAndre Bembry, Taurean Prince, Ersan Ilyasova, and Kris Humphries, a lineup that trailed the Pacers by a score of 50-43 at halftime. Bembry played very well in the first half, snagging some very athletic rebounds and hitting his first three-point shot in the NBA. Since Atlanta was playing against an Indiana team desperate to make the playoffs, and playing without any of the Hawks’ regular starters, a first-half deficit is hardly surprising.
Indiana widened the lead in the third quarter, ending the period with a 84-68 lead. The reserves played well, but Paul George’s strong shooting — as well as an overall better performance from Indiana — proved too much to handle. Atlanta cut the lead down to single digits in the fourth quarter, but Indiana managed to pull back ahead each time. This game was probably closer than it should have been, but the Pacers’ victory was never in serious doubt.
Tonight is one of those rare occasions when a loss means absolutely nothing. In fact, Bembry’s athletic performance, another interesting game from Prince, and seeing Sefolosha play all mean more for the immediate future than the outcome of this game. Sefolosha’s availability for the playoffs will be a major factor in the first round of the playoffs, and his presence tonight was encouraging.
For Indiana, tonight’s victory means a playoff berth, and the elimination of the Miami Heat. And now, the Hawks can look ahead to the weekend and the beginning of the first round of the playoffs. With a team that is rested and (hopefully) healthy, the first round should be an interesting series.