The Atlanta Hawks (18-42) traveled to Indy for their first game out of the All-Star break for a matchup with the Pacers. After a decent first quarter, Atlanta fell down double-digits on the road for the third consecutive game, dating back to games in Milwaukee and Detroit, respectively, last week.
Earlier in the day, the Hawks reportedly began working on a buyout with veteran forward Ersan İlyasova. İlyasova has appeared in 78 games for Atlanta over the past two seasons, six of those coming in the postseason last year. He averaged 10.7 points, 5.6 rebounds and shot 44 percent from the field while providing solid veteran leadership and above average defense during his Atlanta tenure.
Taurean Prince, John Collins, Dewayne Dedmon, Kent Bazemore, and Dennis Schröder started for Atlanta, although Dedmon logged only 11 minutes in the contest (all in the first half). Mike Muscala started the second half at center for the Hawks. Head coach Mike Budenholzer had no comment on the move after the game. It’s unclear if this means anything moving forward, but it’s certainly a development worth following into next week.
Atlanta tallied 13 first-half turnovers as a unit, leaving the Hawks down 61-44 at half, a deficit they were not able to overcome. Isaiah Taylor led the way for Atlanta with 17 points and six assists in 22 minutes off the bench, while Collins posted nine points and nine rebounds in 30 minutes. Prince added 14 points and three steals as well, although he did have six turnovers. Tyler Dorsey also added three three pointers on eight attempts from distance.
The second half was far closer than the first, but the Hawks just couldn’t mount a run large enough to get the back in the game, ultimately falling to the Pacers 116-93. The Pacers fast paced attack proved to be too much for turnover-prone Atlanta tonight, although the Hawks played significantly better in the second half when Taylor was on the floor, as noted by Coach Bud: “We feel better about the way our team played in the second half, and (Isaiah Taylor) was a big part of that”.
Bazemore also liked what he saw from Taylor: “He’s a special player. We see it every day in practice...he breaks guys down, gets to the rim at will.”
Taylor was essentially the lone bright spot for Atlanta tonight, as the starters struggled to find rhythm for most of the game. He posted a career high in points (17) in only 22 minutes of playing time and showed poise and confidence running the second team. He added six assists and two steals, and his plus-minus of -4 was the best of any Hawk that logged over 20 minutes.
The Pacers attacked Atlanta from all angles from the start and never let up. The well balanced Indiana attack was led by 21 points and 13 rebounds off the bench from Domantas Sabonis, 20 points and five steals from Georgia Tech product Thaddeus Young, 15 points from Cory Joseph, 14 from All-Star guard Victor Oladipo, 13 from Lance Stephenson and 12 from Bojan Bogdanovic. Indiana also dominated the glass, winning that battle 57-40.
Indiana currently sits as the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference and looks poised to make a little bit of noise in a season that was presumed as lost before it even began. Most around the league viewed the offseason trade that sent Paul George to OKC for Oladipo and Sabonis as a steal for the Oklahoma City Thunder, but Oladipo has broken out as an All-Star in his fifth season, and the young Sabonis has provided valuable contributions with second unit as well. The Pacers have actually improved to date from last season, when they finished as the seventh seed in the East with George and company.
Atlanta remains last in the conference, and will be in action again Monday night at home against Lonzo Ball and the Los Angeles Lakers in a matchup loaded with talent from the Rising Stars game last Friday in Los Angeles. Lakers forwards Brandon Ingram and Kyle Kuzma made appearances for the Lakers, and Ball most certainly would have played as well but was held out with a knee injury. Prince and Collins played in the contest as the sole representatives of the Hawks at All-Star Weekend.
While the game Monday night almost certainly means nothing to either team in regards to the playoffs, there will be plenty of young talent on display if you have any interest in the future of the league.