ATLANTA, GA – Make it two straight not so ideal losses for the Indiana Pacers (34-27).
After dropping their road trip opener to a weak Mavericks team in Dallas on Monday, Indy fell to another struggling squad on Wednesday. This time it was the Atlanta Hawks (19-43). The Blue and Gold trimmed a 23-point deficit all the way down to two, but Atlanta ultimately prevailed to hand the Pacers another disappointing defeat.
A season-high 24 turnovers plagued the Pacers in this one, as the Hawks turned those miscues into 29 points on the way to victory.
The first half of Wednesday’s contest was fairly even. The same could not be said about half number two. The Hawks doubled Indiana up in the third quarter, while the Pacers answered with a big fourth quarter.
Atlanta owned the lead after one, 28-27.
Indy fought back in period two, leading 48-46 with 2:06 to play in the half. Little did they know, that would be the Blue and Gold’s final advantage of the evening. Atlanta rattled off nine of the half’s final 11 points, allowing the home team to go into the break with a 55-50 edge.
The Pacers struggled in the third quarter. And it was apparent quickly. Indiana turned the ball over on each of their first four possessions of the frame, allowing the Hawks to add to their lead. Atlanta ended up outscoring Indiana 30-15 in the third, leaving them with a 20-point advantage heading into the fourth.
Indiana was still down by 14 points with 5:44 remaining in the fourth, but caught fire late and made their opposition sweat.
A timely 10-0 run put the Pacers in position to win, making it a 97-93 game with 2:31 left. One minute later, it was still a four-point ballgame, but a Domantas Sabonis offensive rebound and lay-in trimmed Atlanta’s lead down to 101-99 with 1:02 to go. Dennis Schroder would not let the Hawks lose, though.
Schroder scored the game’s next five points, including back-to-back tough layups, to push Atlanta back ahead by seven with 15 seconds left. Bojan Bogdanovic drained a three-pointer on the other end, but it was too late for the Pacers.
Bogdanovic was Indy’s leading scorer on this night with 26 points. He hit ten of 17 shot attempts, including five triples. Victor Oladipo added 22 points, but shot poorly from downtown (1-for-9). Lance Stephenson had a productive night off of the bench, turning in 18 points and six boards.
Despite a pair of frustrating losses, the Pacers are still in good position ahead of a huge stretch against Milwaukee and Washington.
The Bucks are losers of three in a row, putting them behind Indiana in the Eastern Conference standings by one game. The Pacers will battle the Bucks in Milwaukee in their next game on Friday (8 p.m. tip) before hosting their division rivals in Indianapolis on Monday, March 5 (7 p.m.). In between those clashes with Milwaukee, Indy will travel to D.C. to take on the Wizards on Sunday (6 p.m.). The Wizards are currently a game and half better than the Pacers in the fight for home court advantage.
Eastern Conference playoff picture:
4) Washington, 36-26, 8 GB
5) Indiana, 34-27, 9.5 GB
6) Philadelphia, 32-27, 10.5 GB
7) Milwaukee, 33-28, 10.5 GB