The Atlanta Hawks bounced-back from their disappointing loss in Dallas on Sunday with a handy victory against the Indiana Pacers on Tuesday night at State Farm Arena, 133-112.
Trae Young led the scoring with 34 points and 11 assists, John Collins added 20 points. For the Pacers, Chris Duarte scored 25 points while Lance Stephenson added 24 points.
Heading into this game the news revolved around the Pacers, and this game was all about the Pacers and their absences. Earlier in the day, the Pacers were already going to be without Myles Turner, Malcolm Brogdon, T.J. McConnell and T.J. Warren, and the Hawks were already considerable favorites to win the game. Reports then filtered through of the Pacers’ trade that would send Domantas Sabonis, Jeremy Lamb and Justin Holiday to Sacramento, meaning the Pacers’ depth took a further hit for Tuesday night’s game in Atlanta — eight players were available to them.
Right from the off, the quality between the two sides was clear to see and the Hawks made a bright start they needed to take the lead and never look back. The Pacers’ early slip was in transition, where they didn’t pick up the Hawks’ shooters coming up the floor.
The Pacers fail to pick up De’Andre Hunter in the corner as Young makes the long pass to find him and Hunter makes the three:
Off of the high-screen with Clint Capela, the Pacers pay the price for not picking up Young deep enough and Young lets the deep three fly and connects:
Off of a made Pacers basket, the visitors are, again, slack in picking up their man and Kevin Huerter is the beneficiary as he receives from Young and hits the three:
The Pacers took a timeout at this juncture and did a better job not allowing three-pointers like this but by this stage the Hawks had found a groove and the early trend of shots falling up to this point continued for the rest of the quarter as the Hawks scored 40 first quarter points on 72.7% shooting from the field and 7-of-9 from three.
The Hawks ran their lead up to 20 in the early exchanges of the second quarter and then 30 points in the third quarter, and though the Pacers made a run to bring that lead under 20 points, the Hawks responded before the end of the third quarter and with a Delon Wright steal and dunk to end the third quarter restored the Hawks’ 30 point lead — entering the fourth quarter ahead by 31 points.
This game was arguably a formality prior to the trade, let alone after it, but the Hawks — cliché as it is — handled their business as they needed to and while there was a bit of a lull in the third quarter their approach to the game was what it needed to be and it didn’t seem they underestimated the Pacers in the first half and take their foot off the gas. Not that they can really afford to as they continue to chase seeding in the Eastern Conference and return to a positive record.
The type of shots that the Hawks’ didn’t make in Dallas fell last night; such was the case for Young (who shot 13-of-20 from the field and 6-of-9 from three), Bogdan Bogdanovic and Kevin Huerter. Young, at times, toyed with the Pacers’ defense with his dribble/stop-start moves and just dominated this matchup.
Collins was one of the few Hawks who enjoyed a good game in Dallas and he enjoyed another fine performance as he scored 20 points on 9-of-14 shooting from the field in just 20 minutes — 18 of those 20 points coming in the first half. Similar to Young, it was a matchup Collins was always going to perform well in.
In the end, the Hawks were just one point shy of their season-high 134 points but did register season-highs in three-point percentage (hitting 51.5% of their threes; 17-of-33) and 36 assists. The Hawks were able to empty the bench with half of the fourth quarter remaining and though the Pacers outscored the Hawks 37-27 in the final frame, it was of little consequence.
Hawks head coach Nate McMillan was pleased with his side’s approach to the game in what would normally be unique situation with the Pacers missing as many players as they were.
“I liked our approach to the game,” said McMillan postgame. “It was about taking care of business tonight and respecting the game. We knew they were shorthanded with the trade but our guys came out right from the start and was solid both on the defensive end of the floor and the offensive end of the floor. I think we had 22 assists at the half. They had 50 (points) at the half, our goal was to keep them under 100. But I just thought the start was a good start with our guys establishing a business mindset and we basically continued that for 48 minutes.”
The Hawks headed into Tuesday having planned and scouted for Domantas Sabonis but obviously found their preparation for the two-time All-Star counting for little.
“It’s definitely different tonight,” said Young of planning for the game. “We came to the arena having a game-plan for Sabonis and the guys they traded so it was different but no excuses in the NBA. Things like this happen so we’ve just got to adjust and be ready to play and we did.”
With this Hawks group in situation similar to this, we (collectively) have seen the Hawks stumble and fall in these situations and the sentiment each time has been, ‘These are NBA players,’ and, ‘Guys can get hot.’ The Hawks seemed to be more aware of this possibility from the get-go.
“It was kind of like the COVID period we had back around Christmas,” said Collins of preparation. “Just seeing a team and looking at the scout sheet and seeing a bunch of guys gone and having to prepare for a different roster and understanding those guys are ready for their opportunity and they’re coming ready to play. Got to come out and compete and be ready to go from the start.”
We looked at when we saw those quick Hawks threes in transition early in the game; the early punch in this game, leaving no margin for optimism for the Pacers should they have been the ones to make a quick start/keep even with the Hawks early.
“We did a good job of playing fast, playing early,” said McMillan when asked about threes. “Even when we made buckets we were able to advance the ball and get some easy looks, find those guys in transition for threes. What we talked about was the catch-and-shoot three. We got more of those tonight as opposed to off-the-dribble threes, which is a tough shot. 22 assists at the half was just unbelievable and you got 36 for the game. We can create ball movement like that when we’re moving the ball; we have shooters that can knock down the shots. And those shots are shots they practise every day, so we want to get that ball moving.”
“I thought it was important we did it fast and got to a hot start because they have some guys who can score and get it going so putting that pressure on them early and attacking from the beginning was important for us,” added Young.
It’s difficult to take a ton of meaningful take-aways from this game. The Hawks played a very depleted Pacers side and won as they were supposed to. They can be encouraged that shots similar that didn’t fall in Dallas fell last night and perhaps this can serve as a confidence-booster for those who struggled in Dallas or in recent games — Onyeka Okongwu, for instance, played a better game last night than he has over the last few games.
The Hawks (26-28) are back in action on Friday against the San Antonio Spurs (20-34) at State Farm Arena.
Until next time...