D. West (IND): 22 pts, 10 reb, 2 ast, 2 stl
M. Scott (ATL): 15 pts, 5 reb, 2 ast
[FULL BOX SCORE]
The Hawks had plenty of chances they could have just rolled over and died tonight. It was nice to see that they never did. The Pacers would go up big and the Hawks would come roaring big. After a solid 1st half it looked like the Hawks might be able to hang around the entire game. Then the seconnd half happened… it was ugly. The ball movement and defense that had kept the Pacers off balance was no longer effective. The Pacers locked the Hawks down and midway through the fourth it looked over. Then the Hawks came right back.
With the game within four the Pacers called a timeout. They came out of the timeout with a David West jump shot and a Paul George fastbreak slam dunk. Once again, the game looked over. But again, the Hawks came right back. With Atlanta within two, CJ Watson was going to the line to shoot free throws for the Pacers. He made the first and missed the second. Atlanta grabbed the rebound and made a curious decision. The Hawks, fans, and hell, even the Pacers all expected Coach Mike Budenholzer to call a timeout. Coach Bud opted to not call a timeout. The only reason I can think of is that he wanted to catch the Pacers defense off guard; this didn’t work, the Hawks look confused and unprepared. The Pacers fouled the Hawks before they could shoot a three.
While the late game execution was not good, it was nice to see the Hawks show a special kind of mental toughness tonight. Yes, mental toughness can be a lame narrative, but it has merit when you see a team not get discouraged despite constant deficits throughout the game against the best team in the league.
Reaction grades [assessed 0-10]:
Paul Millsap: Millsap has had better days. Tasked with the job of guarding Roy Hibbert at times, and David West most of the night, Millsap was clearly over matched. West took advantage of whomever was defending him all night going 10-for-19 with 22 points and a lot of that was with Millsap guarding him. While Millsap did spend time guarding both players, he can’t let his matchup torch him like that. He didn’t do anything on the offensive end to make up for it going 2-for-11 from the field for seven points. 2/10
DeMarre Carroll: Bad news, Carroll 3-for-8 from the field and was not very useful on offense. Good news, Paul George went 6-for-18 from the field and had to work hard for most of his 18 points. A lot of that had to do with Carroll playing solid defense on him all night. 7.5/10
Kyle Korver: Korver got to game number 116 in his three-point streak early in the game. Unfortunately, that was the only three pointer he made all night. Korver didn’t do much to hurt the Hawks, but he didn’t do much to help them either. He was just kind of out there for most of the night, which is probably part of the reason Budenholzer decided not to re-insert him late in the game. 4/10
Jeff Teague: Teague had a really strong start and the Pacers clearly noticed. Teague went 4-for-6 from the field to start the game and was doing some real damage to the Pacers with his penetration. The Pacers knew that Teague was the source of the Hawks strong 1st half so in the 2nd half they smothered him. Teague struggled penetrating the rest of the night and went 0-for-2 from the field with zero points in the second half. 6/10
Gustavo Ayon: Goose got the start tonight and had a fantastic 1st half. Going 3-for-5 from the field (it would have been 4-for-5 had he made a wide open jumpshot) and making some nice passes. His defense was solid and he fit in with the offense well. I have no idea why he rarely played in the second half after such a strong 1st half. He played 17 minutes total and 14 of them came in the 1st half. 7/10
Elton Brand: Brand had a great game, going 6-for-8 from the field and scoring 12 points. He had himself a couple of highlight blocks and he played some really great defense in spots. Roy Hibbert hates leaving the rim and Brand was happy to pull him away from it and torch him from mid range. 7/10
Mike Scott: The Mike Scott breakout season continues! Scott had 15 points including a couple of triples and 5 free throws. Going 4-for-8 from the field the 2nd year forward out of Virginia continues to impress 8/10
Lou Williams: Lou Williams had an injury scare tonight, but luckily he came back and continued to play. I’m not sure how healthy he was with the way he played tonight. Even with the great defense from Indy, it was strange to see him struggle as much as he did and it looked like he had little confidence in his shot. 1/10
Shelvin Mack: As Teague and Lou Will struggled, one of the guards that led the comeback effort was Mack. Despite his really bad shooting (going 1-for-5 from the field) he was able to run the offense and help lead the late game comeback. Still, those shooting numbers are not pretty and stick out in a close game like this. 4/10
Dennis Schröder: The other guard that led the comeback effort was rookie Dennis Schröder. Schröder came in and made an immediate impact, going 2-for-3 in his 10 minutes and causing problems for the Pacers. I don’t know if it was the way he played or if the Pacers hadn’t scouted, but either way it worked. 6/10
Cartier Martin: Carti-Yay! is back and he had an immediate impact. His long range shooting was always beneficial to the team during his first stint in Atlanta and it was huge tonight. Martin went 3-for-5 from the field and 2-for-3 from long range. Martin had some huge threes at the end of the game to bring the Hawks close with a chance to tie at the end of the game. 7/10
Mike Budenhozler: Coach Bud made some questionable decisions tonight. He played Ayon minimal minutes in the second half after a strong game and made a strange decision to not call timeout at the end of the game. There were some Hawks fans mad about Bud’s decision to not call timeout at the end of the game. Any criticism of the decision is completely warranted. The Hawks players looked confused that he was not calling a timeout and it was a disaster. However, the decision itself to try and catch the Pacers off guard was not a bad one. The Pacers defense is amazing when given a chance to set up and the Hawks’ best chance at a three-point shot was probably in a fastbreak situation. Bud gambled and it failed. Next time he needs to make sure his players have a better understanding of what he wants to do at the end of the game. Good learning experience for the first year head coach. 7/10
Opposition: After being down by one in the first half, it seemed like the Pacers streak of losses in Atlanta was going to continue. The second half adjustments they made were incredible. The Hawks perimeter players were smothered in one of the best defensive displays I’ve seen. I actually started to feel bad for Jeff Teague at one point. Great play by the Pacers in a hard fought win for them. This is their first victory in Atlanta since 2006! 9/10
Next: Atlanta at New Orleans, Wednesday, February 5th