Atlanta Hawks forward Josh Smith, left, shoots over Indiana Pacers forward Paul George during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Indianapolis, Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2013. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
Photo: Michael Conroy
Photo: Michael Conroy

Horford calls Augustin play "dirty" in loss to Pacers (updated)

As much as the Hawks were at a height disadvantage, it was the Pacers’ All-Star who did the real damage.

George scored a game-high 29 points, including five 3-pointers, to lead a second-half charge as the Pacers defeated the Hawks 114-103 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse Tuesday night.

The Hawks (26-21) have lost two straight and three of their past four games. They have now dropped eight of nine games on the road. The Hawks continue to slide down the Eastern Conference standings. They entered Tuesday’s game sixth in the Eastern Conference, but just one game ahead of Milwaukee, who played at the Nuggets.

In addition to the play of George, the Hawks sent the Pacers to the free-throw line 40 times. The Hawks out-rebounded the Pacers, 39-37, and limited Indiana to just five offensive rebounds.

“When I look at the stat sheet the most glaring thing is the free throws,” Hawks coach Larry Drew said. “We fouled way too much. From a game plan I think the guys came in and tried to execute the strategy, we just put them on the free-throw line way too many times. Twice we fouled them from the 3-point line. You don’t give yourself much of a chance when you put a team on the free-throw line 40 times.”

Jeff Teague led the Hawks with 24 points. Al Horford added 15 points and John Jenkins finished with 14 points. Johan Petro had a season-high 10 points. Josh Smith was held to nine points and 10 rebounds.

The Pacers (30-19) snapped a four-game losing streak to the Hawks. They have won four straight games in climbing to the top of the Central Division standings. It was also their 15th straight home victory this season.

A key play came with 2:09 remaining in the third quarter with the Pacers leading by eight points. D.J. Augustin drove to the basket with Horford defending. Augustin clearly created contact with an elbow that hit Horford in the groin. Horford’s arms hit Augustin in the head as each fell to the floor. After a lengthy discussion, then a video review, then another lengthy discussion, the officials called a technical foul on Augustin and a flagrant foul on Horford. The Hawks made their free throw and the Pacers made their two and got the ball.

“I went up to contest the shot and I think that he purposely threw an elbow at me knowing that I was coming,” Horford said. “He hit me in the groin area. It was very painful. He hit me and it as a natural instinct as I was going for the block to put me hands down and I guess I hit him in the head. It was a very dirty play by him. I’m obviously upset about the call. I understand that they are at home. The crowd is against the refs and they have peer pressure on them so they couldn’t let it slide. I am hoping that the NBA looks at the play and realizes that it was not an intentional hit and I should not have had a flagrant foul.”

The Pacers opened up an 11-point lead after the third quarter as George scored 11 points, including three 3-pointers.

In addition to George, the Pacers got double-digit scoring from all five starters, George Hill (15), David West (15), Lance Stephenson (14) and Roy Hibbert (12) and two substitutes, Ian Mahinmi (12) and Augustin (10).

“We came out a little lethargic at the start of the third quarter, which is a point of emphasis with us every game we play, not coming out flat,” Drew said. “We just didn’t come out with the energy that we should. I made an early substitution with Jeff. He knows I rely on him to be the guy who gets us going, gets us energized. I brought him out for a few minutes and put him back in and he responded very well.”

The Pacers led 50-49 at halftime, erasing a 12-point deficit with a 19-6 run to end the second quarter.

The Hawks led by 12 after a 3-pointer from Kyle Korver with 5:15 remaining in the half. However, they would score just three baskets the rest of the half, two by Teague who had nine first-half points. The Hawks also got eight points from John Jenkins as nine of the 11 players who got into the game scored.

“We messed on some coverages and they made some big shots,” Teague said of the third quarter. “That can zap you a little bit when you feel like you are playing well.”

The Hawks fought foul trouble for much of the game. Horford picked up two early fouls and fouled out with 2:48 remaining.

Korver now has a streak of 41 straight games with a 3-pointer, one shy of the team record set by Mookie Blaylock (March 26, 1996-Jan. 11, 1997). It didn’t come easy as Korver was 3-for-13, including 2-for-9 from 3-point range. Korver finished with two 3s to tie Clifford Robinson for 33rd (1,253) on the NBA’s all-time 3-pointer list.

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