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Hawks close strong in 129-117 win over Pacers

NBA: Indiana Pacers at Atlanta Hawks Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

For the first time since the All-Star break, the Atlanta Hawks had the benefit of two full days between games after falling short against the Milwaukee Bucks on Thursday. In that time, Atlanta’s injury issues were not solved in full but, on Sunday afternoon, Nate McMillan and company did receive welcome news in the form of standout big man John Collins returning after a nine-game absence due to an ankle sprain. It was an up and down day for the Hawks, but the team began the afternoon in strong fashion and ended it similarly, picking up a 129-117 victory.

The Hawks started on a (very) positive note, including an easy post bucket from Collins in his first action since March 30.

After it was tied at 6-6, the Hawks scored 12 consecutive points to take control of the proceedings, with Clint Capela playing at a high level in the early going.

Atlanta wasn’t done there, eventually pushing the overall run to 24-4 and taking a commanding 30-10 lead.

At that point, the Pacers were shooting just 3-of-12 from the floor, with the Hawks flying high and attacking the rim at will. Indiana did make a push to end the quarter, though, slashing Atlanta’s edge to only 12 points after 12 minutes.

The Pacers continued their improved play to start the second quarter, just as the Hawks struggled to generate consistent offense. Overall, Atlanta’s backup unit struggled, and the Hawks didn’t score for almost four minutes between the end of the first quarter and the beginning of the second quarter. Indiana chipped away, putting together a 20-8 overall run to cut the margin down to 43-37 midway through the second quarter.

Atlanta did close in stronger fashion, however, with Capela doing his part and Kevin Huerter getting hot. The third-year wing connected on a pair of three-pointers in the final minute, helping to push the Hawks to a 66-57 halftime advantage.

The home team shot 55 percent from the floor and 47 percent from three-point range in the first half, using a high-powered offense to garner control of the proceedings. Huerter and Capela tied for the team lead with 16 points at the break, with Capela adding 10 rebounds and three blocks in the first half.

To begin the third quarter, the Pacers threw the first salvo, cutting the margin to just four points with a 7-2 run. The Hawks did stabilize, though, with Collins producing an important bucket on an offensive rebound and Young connecting on a long-range jumper.

Atlanta led by as many as 11 points in the third quarter, but the visitors made another run. The Pacers out-scored the Hawks by a 12-2 margin in the latter stages of the period, slashing Atlanta’s lead to 87-86.

Fortunately, the Hawks made a few plays in the final two minutes — including a three-pointer from Huerter — to maintain a four-point lead as the fourth quarter arrived.

The Hawks quickly pushed the lead up to eight points, capped by an all-effort possession from Capela that featured three offensive rebounds and a bucket at the rim.

Indiana responded in climbing back within just a two-point margin, but Young scored four straight points, prompting the Pacers to call timeout with 7:21 to go.

In keeping with the theme of a back-and-forth game, the Pacers had the next advantage. Indiana scored the next six points, forcing the Hawks to call timeout at the 5:09 mark in a game that was suddenly tied at 105-105.

From there, however, Atlanta simply put the game away. After the two teams traded buckets to 107-107, the Hawks went on a 13-4 run, capped by a dagger-like three-pointer from Young.

The closing seconds were largely inconsequential, though there was an amusing moment in which the Pacers tipped the ball in the wrong basket. Ultimately, the Hawks claimed a 12-point victory, improving to 31-26 on the season.

Four players scored 20 points or more for the Hawks, led by Young with 34 points and 11 assists. Capela was spectacular, finishing with 25 points, 24 rebounds and three blocks, with Huerter adding 23 points (including 5-of-7 from three) and nine rebounds. Bogdanovic continued his impressive recent play with 23 points and five more three-pointers.

The Hawks will return to the floor on Tuesday evening at State Farm Arena when the Orlando Magic come to town. From there, Atlanta will face a quick turnaround with a road matchup against the New York Knicks on Wednesday.

Stay tuned.