The Pacers keep talking about how teams get up for them these days and how they must match the energy of their seemingly inferior opponents. They didn't do that (again) tonight, allowing the Atlanta Hawks to run out to a big first quarter lead they never relinquished, finishing the game 97-87.
The Pacers got it to single digits a few times in the second half behind a strong push from Paul George (who finished with 28 points and 12 rebonds), but they couldn't really mount a meaningful rally, missing a lot of opportunities with blown open jumpers and putbacks to bad turnovers.
The Hawks had lost 3 in a row coming into this one but the Pacers had lost 11 straight in Atlanta during the regular season, so they couldn't have expected it to be easy. However, a lazy first half effort, the absence of Lance Stephenson (with a knee contusion) and a really pathetic effort from Roy Hibbert (1-8, 2 points, 4 rebounds), whose lack of consistency is really irritating, rendered the Pacers rather ineffective tonight.
David West has been in a bit of a slump as of late, finishing with single digits again (8 points). He did had 11 rebounds but had some crucial turnovers down the stretch when the Pacers were hoping to make a comeback. George Hill was disappointing again with 10 on 4-12 shooting, while Danny Granger, in his first start of the year, had 14 points, 5 rebounds and 3 assists on 4-10 shooting from the field in 32 minutes.
The loss drops the Pacers to 28-7 for the seaso, giving them just a razor thing half-game lead over the Miami Heat for first seed in the East. The Pacers are not playing well right now despite holding the best record in the NBA (even with tonight's loss), and they'll have to regroup and find their way again.
Next up, Washington at Banker's Life Fieldhouse on Friday. Gotta get that one.