Vivlamore reporting from Philips Arena.
The Hawks didn’t just go cold in the third quarter. They went ice cold.
It didn’t matter.
The Hawks shot a meager 27 percent from the floor following halftime but erased a 14-point deficit for a dramatic 89-86 victory over the Pacers Wednesday night at Philips Arena. It was the second straight impressive win for the Hawks, who won at the defending Western Conference champion Thunder Sunday.
The Hawks made just 6 of 22 shots and the Pacers went on an 18-0 run in the third quarter. At a timeout with 5:45 left in the fourth quarter, the Hawks’ shooting percentage following intermission remained at 27 percent (9 of 33). By that point, the Pacers led 83-69, and appeared to have full control of the game.
Not so fast.
The Hawks (2-1) came storming back with an 18-0 run of their own, including eight straight points from Kyle Korver, to completely erase the big deficit.
“For a while tonight it looked like we were dead in the water,” coach Larry Drew said. “But we found our rhythm. We started making some shots. We started chasing down loose balls. We regained our momentum and made some big baskets.”
Earlier in the game, Drew implored Korver to keep shooting through his early-season struggles. Korver quickly responded “I will. You don’t have to worry about that.” Sure enough, he made three straight shots, including two 3-pointers, in the run. After the Hawks cut the lead to 83-82, they had several chances to take the lead. They finally did on a Jeff Teague 3-pointer with 1:04 remaining. Following a Pacers turnover, Teague added a floater to go up by four points.
Lance Stephenson answered with a 3-pointer with 18.7 remaining to make it 87-86. But Josh Smith, returning from a sprained right ankle, fed Lou Williams for an easy dunk with 17.1 seconds left. A Paul George 3-pointer at the buzzer fell short. The Hawks outscored the Pacers 24-9 in the fourth quarter.
“I appreciate it when everyone tells you to keep shooting when you miss a few in a row,” Korver said. “It’s actually one of my pet peeves. I know. I will. It’s what I do. But it’s good. You want your coach and your teammates to have your back.”
The Pacers (2-3) entered the game as the NBA leader in holding opponents to just a .389 field goal percentage. It appeared they would lower that number. However, they made just 4 of 19 shots (21.1 percent) and the Hawks made 10 of 14 shots (41.7 percent) in the decisive fourth quarter.
Al Horford led the Hawks with 16 points and nine rebounds. Teague added 15 points followed by Korver (13) and Smith (11 points, seven rebounds, seven assists).
David West and George Hill each had 20 points for the Pacers. West scored 14 first-half points.
Smith’s ankle proved just fine. The forward scored the Hawks’ first seven points, with a series of post-up moves. It was his assist on the Teague game-winner that was his biggest contribution.
“I stay after practice a lot of days working on that shot,” Teague said. “It finally came in a game situation. I knocked it down. Josh gave me a great pass. He came to me and said ‘I believe in you.’ It’s a team thing. Just playing together.”
The Hawks entered the game concerned with the Pacers clear height advantage and rebounding prowess. The Hawks started with a bigger lineup, starting Zaza Pachulia at center, meant to counter the Pacers’ Roy Hibbert. The 7-foot-2 center had just nine points and seven rebounds.
The Pacers entered the game as NBA leader in average rebounds (53.3) and defensive rebounds (38.0) per game through their first four games. The Hawks, by stark contrast, were 27th in rebounds (37.3) and 26th in defensive rebounds (27.5) in their two games.
“It’s a good job to have this measuring stick early and see how we do and overcome a big deficit,” Smith said. “You can see there is no quit in this team. We played extremely hard. We kept the tempo going. We didn’t hang our heads even though we probably felt like we didn’t get the good whistle. We didn’t worry about it. We just came out and established ourselves in the fourth quarter and played some great defense.”
At the end of the first half, the teams were tied with 19 rebounds each. In the end, the Hawks out-rebounded the Pacers 51-41.
The Hawks took a narrow 51-50 lead into the intermission. They started the second quarter on a 15-2 run to erase a three-point deficit. The run, keyed by 3-pointers from Williams and DeShawn Stevenson, gave the Hawks a 10-point lead.
However, the Pacers narrowed the gap with a 10-0 run of their own late in the half.
“We are going to fight,” Teague said. “We are undersized. Everybody knows that. But we are going to fight. We are going to play hard. That is what we did in the fourth quarter. We held them to nine points. That’s big.”
* The Hawks elected to go with a bigger lineup against the rebound proficient Pacers starting Jeff Teague and Kyle Korver at guard, Josh Smith and Al Horford at forward and Zaza Pachulia at center.
“It allows us to match up a little better because we are bigger,” Drew said. “When we’ve gone with a bigger lineup against this team it’s had a better effect for us.”
* Center Johan Petro, who recently returned to practice from a sore back, was inactive for the third game. Although the Hawks wanted a bigger lineup against the Pacers, Drew said Petro was not ready. “I wanted him to get some more practice time under his belt where he can get his timing and his conditioning in. I had a good talk with him after the shoot-around and explained it and he was in total agreement.”
* Drew said there is no plan to get rookies John Jenkins and Mike Scott into their first game. Drew doesn’t want to go that deep into his bench. It will likely take an injury to another player for the two to move up into the rotation.
* In their first two games, the Hawks committed a total of 24 turnovers. The 12.0 average was tied for second lowest in the NBA.
* The Pacers played without All-Star Danny Granger who is out indefinitely with a left knee injury. According to the team, Granger received an injection to treat left patellar tendinosis and that team medical personnel estimates the forward’s recovery time at about three months.