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Hawks drop season finale in backbreaking fashion, 135-134

NBA: Indiana Pacers at Atlanta Hawks Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

The Atlanta Hawks took on the Indiana Pacers in what was the season finale on Wednesday night from State Farm Arena. Indiana sat six of their top eight rotation pieces with the playoffs quickly approaching, while the hosts elected to play all of their active bodies. In the end, it was a competitive game for 48 minutes, with the Hawks ultimately falling by a final score of 135-134.

The teams exchanged 8-2 runs in the early going, with the first half of the opening period evenly played.

The Pacers raced out to 32 points in the first ten-plus minutes of play, despite the amount of production they were missing from the lineup. Defense was optional here in the first, with the visitors scoring 35 points and carrying a seven point lead into the second. Tyreke Evans and Alex Len paced all scorers with 10 points a piece in the quarter.

The torrid pace (helped by a lack of defense) continued into the second, and Atlanta’s two young stars took advantage of the opportunity to make a poster.

The absence of defensive resistance lasted for the majority of the first half, with both teams racing past the 50-point mark just halfway through the second. A bit of extra-curricular activity surfaced in the late second, with Kyle O’Quinn seemingly attempting a clothesline on Trae Young, who was running with the ball at mid-court. O’Quinn was ejected, then Young responded with six quick points.

The offensive party continued for Atlanta’s young duo. It was fan appreciation night at State Farm Arena, after all.

Despite a first half double-double from John Collins, and an impressive outing from Young, the Hawks still trailed by four at half, as the Pacers hung 73 points on them without six of their top eight guys. Evans scored 15 in the first half of play for the guests, while T.J. Leaf added 14.

The Pacers maintained their slim lead into the middle of the third, extending it to as many as eight, getting to the 90-point mark before the halfway mark in the period. They reached the 100-point mark with 2:55 remaining in the third, and 107 going into the fourth. Not the best defensive effort for Atlanta to close out the season.

The Hawks trailed by 10 with under eight minutes remaining, but cut it to five with 6:54 remaining, forcing the Pacers to call timeout.

Taurean Prince hit a three to push the Atlanta run to 8-0 at the 5:38 mark, cutting it back to one possession, 121-119 in favor of the guests. DeAndre’ Bembry got inside for an and-one to tie the score, then Justin Anderson hit a three to give the Hawks a 127-126 lead at the 3:40 mark.

The Pacers got a steal off an ill-advised pass from Kevin Huerter (who shot the ball great tonight), and converted the transition layup to retake the lead. After a couple of empty possessions for both teams, Young hit a floater to give Atlanta a one point lead with 1:09 to go.

Leaf responded with a dunk to give the Pacers a one-point lead with under a minute remaining, until Collins found Len for a jam to put the Hawks back on top just seconds later. Edmond Sumner responded with a jumper to put Indiana back on top with under 40 seconds to play.

Prince hit a would-be game-winner from three-point range with 1.1 remaining, his fifth three of the contest.

Bembry fouled Sumner on three-point attempt in the corner with 0.3 remaining, then Sumner made all three free throws to give Indiana the lead and the win.

Young finished with 23 points and 11 assists to go along with five rebounds and two steals, making him the third most frequent 20 point-10 assist player in the NBA, leading the Eastern Conference.

Collins finished with 20 points, 25 rebounds and six assists, capping what was an outstanding sophomore season by all accounts.

Len finished the best season of his career with 20 points and 10 rebounds, while Prince also added 23 points including the game-winner.

Huerter capped his up-and-down rookie campaign with 17 points (6-for-8 from the floor, 5-for-6 from three-point-range).

Leaf finished with 28 points and ten rebounds, with Evans adding 27 points. Sumner finished with 22 points, and the three game-winning free throws off the bench.

Thanks to everyone for reading throughout the season and stay tuned for wall-to-wall coverage as the offseason arrives in earnest.