The Hawks finally were back on the court on Friday after a week-long layoff for the All-Star break. Atlanta traveled to Bankers Life Fieldhouse to face off against the playoff bound Indiana Pacers, who look as though they have a real chance to compete in the Eastern Conference Playoffs this season.
The Hawks inactives for Friday’s game included Tyler Cavanaugh, who was inactive due to an ankle injury he suffered in a G-League game a couple of weeks ago. Ersan Ilyasova was also held out after it was announced earlier today that he and the Hawks had tentatively reached an agreement on a contract buyout. Details are not yet known on the buyout amount.
During the break, the Hawks transferred their two-way players Andrew White III and Josh Magette back to the Erie Bayhawks after White posted 15 points in his NBA debut against the Pistons last week and moved both back to the Hawks earlier this week in an effort to preserve their 2-way service time. White featured for just one minute in this contest and Magette didn’t see the floor.
Victor Oladipo opened the scoring with a jump shot and the Pacers were off from there. Thaddeus Young and Myles Turner rained down a couple of three-point shots early in the first as Atlanta struggled to get stops against the Pacers and their blazingly fast… pace (ba-dum-tss). The Hawks really made an effort to get John Collins involved early with a couple of jams off some nice passing. DeAndre’ Bembry and Tyler Dorsey entered the game late in the first and played some improved defense from the first unit of the Hawks and at the end of the first the Hawks had gotten things more under control with a 27-22 deficit going into the second.
Atlanta’s defense began to fall off the face of the Earth beginning early on in the second quarter as Lance Stephenson was able to get pretty much anything he wanted, hitting a couple of jumpers and assisting on a Domantas Sabonis jumper. Joe Young hit back to back three-pointers, putting the Pacers up 20 with over seven minutes remaining in the quarter before the Hawks finally began to stop the bleeding. Dewayne Dedmon was able to dial up a three pointer and Dennis Schroder was finally able to get a layup at the rim, but the Pacers countered again with a mini scoring run all from Cory Joseph to put even more space between the teams. Dorsey hit a three-pointer coming down the final stretch of the quarter to keep the score respectable going into halftime with the Hawks down 61-44.
To open the third quarter, there was a lineup change with Mike Muscala starting the quarter over Dedmon, who was not listed as injured. Coach Bud must have had a stirring message in the locker room because the Hawks came out with a much improved defensive effort, especially from Kent Bazemore, who was responsible for Oladipo most of the night. Muscala and Taurean Prince got involved on offense with a dunk for the big man and a shot from long range from Prince. Bembry got involved from distance as well, sinking a three pointer which was matched by Oladipo on the other end. The Hawks and Pacers each posted a 22-point scoring effort in the third and the Hawks could not make up any ground but did not lose any as they had their work cut out for them going into the fourth down 83-66.
The fourth quarter featured more back and forth action as Tyler Dorsey hit another three pointer which was immediately answered by fellow rookie Sabonis for the Pacers. Sabonis had a field day against the Hawks getting some lucky shots to drop inside and rebounding well. Isaiah Taylor really took the deficit to heart as he rallied for 7 points early on in the fourth. There just really was no movement for either team after the Pacers 34 point outburst in the second quarter. Bembry and Prince connected for a really nice finish on an alley-oop around the seven minute mark of the fourth and Prince had a really nice take to the rim a little later. Bembry did well to run the break and came flying down the lane for a jam all over Turner. Stephenson put his antics on full display in the closing minutes of the game that fans seemed to enjoy as the Hawks took the loss after their second quarter defense doomed them.
The Hawks will be back home to Atlanta on Monday to face off against the young Lakers at Phillips Arena. Stay tuned!