This was not a game that started well for the Hawks.
They missed 11 of their first 12 shots. Their coach thought that after five minutes they looked winded.
"I didn’t think we were playing with a lot of zap," coach Larry Drew said.
Two things worked in the Hawks' favor Saturday night – their bench and their opponent. Backups Jeff Teague, Jamal Crawford and Damien Wilkins in particular punched up the effort. The Indiana Pacers did what has become customary – lose to the Hawks.
The Hawks claimed their eighth consecutive victory over the Pacers, 97-83 at Philips Arena. Only the Minnesota Timberwolves have a longer active run of Hawks-specific futility, at 10 losses in a row.
"They always seem to have our number and are a very difficult team for us to match up against," Pacers guard Mike Dunleavy said.
The Hawks (16-9) were a little foggy, having landed around 2 a.m. early Saturday after their loss at San Antonio on Friday night. Forward Josh Smith said he didn't get to sleep until 4 or 4:30 a.m. The Pacers (11-11) also flew in overnight after a Friday night game.
Drew sent in waves of backups to find a solution. Teague, Crawford and Wilkins in particular clicked. Teague pushed the pace, Crawford piled up points and Wilkins put the clamps on Pacers All-Star forward Danny Granger.
After finishing the first quarter up 16-14, the Hawks dinged Indiana with a 17-3 run to open the second quarter and assume control of the game. The lead peaked at 43-21 with 4:21 to play in the second when Teague registered a three-point play on a drive to the basket. Teague, who hadn't played a minute in two of the Hawks' past three games, got 19 minutes of playing time, including all of the second quarter.
"He definitely lifted everybody up," Smith said of Teague.
After the 1-for-12 start, the Hawks made 32 of their last 61 shots against the Pacers, who had started the night leading the NBA in field-goal percentage defense at 42.7 percent. Crawford led with 25 points on 16 shots. Smith (21 points), center Al Horford (16) and forward Marvin Williams (10) also had double figures. Horford missed his first career triple-double by two assists (16 points, 16 rebounds, eight assists).
Wilkins helped slow down Granger, holding him to 3-of-14 from the field and 14 points, seven below his season average. Horford pinned down Indiana center Roy Hibbert to 3-of-14 and six points.
"Al Horford shut down Roy Hibbert [Saturday] and gave him nothing in the low post," Pacers coach Jim O'Brien said.
It helped, also, that the Hawks went to the free-throw line 34 times, making 27, while Indiana received only 16 free throw tries (making 15).
The Pacers twice closed in the fourth quarter to within seven points, but Smith warded them off with three-point plays.
It's the Hawks' fifth win in a row at home. The Hawks are also now 5-2 without Joe Johnson, recovering from elbow surgery.
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