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Defensive struggles plague Hawks in blowout loss to Indiana Pacers

Atlanta Hawks v Indiana Pacers Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

he Atlanta Hawks had one of their worst games in recent history on Friday night, falling to the Indiana Pacers with a final score of 150-116. Surprisingly, the Pacers scored even more in the first meeting between these teams, ending with a score of 157-152.

The game started promisingly for the Hawks, with Dejounte Murray and Jalen Johnson sinking back-to-back threes, giving the Hawks a six-point lead. They held an 11-8 advantage with just under eight minutes remaining in the first quarter. Unfortunately, that turned out to be the last time they were even close to having a lead. The Pacers, as is their style, capitalized on fast-break opportunities and found success often.

The remainder of the quarter unfolded in a similar fashion, with the Pacers consistently creating open looks at an impressive rate. Trae Young missed all five of his field goal attempts in the quarter, including three attempts from beyond the arc. By the end of the quarter, the Hawks had six assists on seven made field goals, while the Pacers boasted 13 assists on 15 made field goals. The Hawks found themselves trailing 38-24.

The Pacers continued to score almost effortlessly in the second quarter, shooting 16-for-22 from the field and 4-for-6 from beyond the arc. Even when the Hawks managed to secure stops, it often resulted in an offensive rebound for the Pacers and subsequent second-chance points.

Dejounte Murray served as the lone sign of life on offense. In the first half, he shot 7-for-10 from the field with 17 points, though no tally in any other stat category except turnover.

The Hawks deployed Trent Forrest throughout the night to counter Tyrese Haliburton, but the primary concern was the team’s defensive struggles. The Pacers outscored the Hawks 40-30 in the quarter, tallying ten assists on their 16 makes.

The first half was largely uncompetitive, with the Hawks trailing 78-54. The Pacers’ offensive strategy of ball movement and finding open spots exploited the Hawks’ defensive lapses. The defense struggles on first efforts, second efforts are less common, and third efforts are a rarity. The Pacers capitalized on this, consistently finding open looks. Young and Bogdanovic combined 3-for-18 from the field in the half.

The story remained consistent in the second half, with the Hawks showing no signs of a comeback. They surrendered 39 points in the third quarter while scoring 29. The Pacers surpassed the 100-point mark with 6:31 remaining in the third. Despite the Pacers cooling off from three in the second quarter, they maintained excellence beyond the arc. Dejounte Murray contributed 9 of the team’s 29 points in the quarter.

Entering the fourth quarter with a score of 117-83, only one of the Pacers’ 16 field goals came without an assist. Rick Carlisle turned to his bench earlier than Quin Snyder, providing extended minutes to younger players. The Hawks’ lineup in the closing minutes featured AJ Griffin, Seth Lundy, Garrison Mathews, and Bruno Fernando.

Murray led the team with 30 points on 13-for-19 shooting, while Young struggled, finishing 4-for-18 from the field and 1-for-11 from beyond the arc. As a team, the Hawks shot 40-for-93 from the field and 10-for-42 from three, with a 23.8 percent success rate.

In contrast, the Pacers shot 60-for-94 from the field and 19-for-39 from three. They assisted on 50 of their 60 made field goals, underscoring the glaring lack of team defense from the Atlanta Hawks.