The Indiana Pacers were finally able to get a win in Philips Arena over the Atlanta Hawks on Tuesday night. It was the first time in eight years that the Pacers came into Atlanta and walked away with a win during the regular season. After losing 12 in a row in Atlanta, the Pacers won on Tuesday night 89-85, but it did not come without a fight from the overachieving Hawks.
Both teams came out of the gate very sloppy. According to Pacers.com contributor Manny Randhawa, the teams combined for 14 turnovers in the first 14 minutes.
The Hawks led by one at the break, but after that it was all Pacers until the middle of the fourth quarter. Their stifling defense held the Hawks to just 12 points in the third, and it looked like they were pulling away up 73-57 with a little over eight minutes to play. But winning in Atlanta could never be this easy for the Pacers.
The Hawks came storming back when coach Mike Budenholzer pulled all the starters but Paul Millsap. The bench cut the lead to just two points, but Indiana was finally able to close the game out once Danny Granger knocked down two clutch free throws with three seconds left to make the final 89-85.
The Pacers held on even once their All-Star snub Lance Stephenson left the game after a nasty fall. They displayed the gritty defense that has them atop the Eastern Conference standings. They will be the top threat to dethrone the Heat in the East come playoff time.
Going forward the Hawks showed why they are going to be a tough out in the playoffs. After the news that Horford will be out for the season, this team could have folded. Instead players have stepped up and kept the Hawks in the top half of the Eastern Conference standings.
Coach Budenholzer has the Hawks believing in his system that relies heavily on ball movement. They share the ball and keep everyone happy. The Hawks lead the NBA in assists at 25.7 per game, according to ESPN.
Long gone are the days of the ISO-Joe offense and Josh Smith throwing up bricks from outside.
They currently stand as a less talented team than the Hawks teams of the past few years, but they have a fight that has been lacking in Atlanta for years. Previous Hawks teams would have given up when they were down by almost 20 points.
The Hawks may not be a real contendor to win the title this season, but few picked them to be third in the conference this late in the season. The Spurs' system and attitude has come over to the East, and the future is looking brighter in Atlanta.
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