Game #74 Recap: Al Horford REALLY Likes Playing the Pacers
Atlanta Hawks 94 – Indiana Pacers 84
Well, you knew it couldn’t go on forever. Heck, you’re probably still not sure that the Pacers really and truly had a five-game winning streak. Regardless, it all ground to a halt in the second half as the Pacer offense that had been running like well-oiled machine seized up.
Atlanta is a tough matchup for our boys in Blue. Their frontcourt is quick and athletic, capable of protecting the rim and controlling the glass. Backcourt mates Joe Johnson, Mike Bibby, and Jamal Crawford all can make you pay if you lose them on the perimeter.
The most glaring advantage Atlanta has is in the pivot, where Al Horford has just destroyed Roy Hibbert all season long. In the first two matchups, Horford has outscored Roy 49-12, outrebounded him 35-13, and recorded 7 blocks vs. only 2 for Roy. Still, those were both played before the first of the year, and Hibbert has made some great strides since then.
Unfortunately, not great enough. A good chunk of the story can be seen on their comparative shot charts:
The Pacers tried to work Roy early, but he missed his first four shots as Horford used his strength to force Roy into jump hooks from just a foot or two outside his comfort zone. Meanwhile, Horford continually found himself wide open for 12 to 15-foot jumpers, and he capitalized. Hibbert either got lost in rotations or (understandably) gave the Hawks’ center space due to a lack of foot speed. At the end of the day, Horford posted 18 points and 12 boards, essentially in three quarters of play. Conversely, Roy managed only 6 points and 2 rebounds in 23 ineffectual minutes.
As for the rest of the Pacers, they posted an impressive 31-point 1st 1uarter, buoyed by 6-of-9 shooting from beyond the arc. Brandon Rush drained all four three-point tries in his 12 first quarter minutes, and the Pacers entered the 2nd up 31-26. From there, it was a tough road-a-hoe.
Over the next 36 minutes, the Pacers managed only 53 points while hitting only 2 of their 17 threes. Brandon Rush, who was so hot in the first, didn’t play at all in the second, then went 1-for-5 from the floor the rest of the game and was generally nonexistent. At least twice in the second half, he was completely exploited defensively by Jamal Crawford. Rush committed a dumb foul on Joe Johnson late in the first. It’s unclear as to whether his second quarter absence was some sort of punishment by O’Brien, or if it was because Brandon had two fouls. Unfortunately, there was no Pacer TV coverage, and Mike Wells didn’t make the trip to Atlanta, so we’ll have to wait to find out what happened there.
Danny played a good, bordering on great, floor game today, but couldn’t buy a bucket. He scored 18 points on 7-for-19 shooting. He did play some good defense, and his attacking the basket was creating the few second quarter opportunities the Pacers got. Unfortunately, any day that finds both Danny and Roy struggling to score is pretty much going to doom the Pacers limited offense.
Watson, like Rush, played a fantastic first quarter, then showed us his down side. Josh McRoberts was unable to repeat his recent aerobatics, as he was at an athletic disadvantage to Josh Smith, Marvin Williams, and Al Horford. Solo got the call after McBob’s first rotation, and performed admirably, posting 7 points and 7 boards. AJ Price and Dahntay Jones, God Love ‘em, played like hot garbage. The only Pacer who was able to maintain his play of late was Troy Murphy, with 21 points and 14 rebounds.
Still, despite being overwhelmed by the Hawks, the Pacers largely kept their heads in the game. This wasn’t a game where they just rolled over. No question they were soundly beaten in the second half, but they kept chasing it. The Pacers have had several losses this year where the final score was closer than the game really was. This game was really closer than the fourth quarter and the final score showed.
None of it was good enough, and the Pacers dropped their 47th game in 74 tries. It’s long been a foregone conclusion, but if Toronto holds onto the double-digit lead they hold in Miami late in the third, then the Pacers will officially be mathematically eliminated from the playoffs. One more loss, and the Pacers will be guaranteed of having their worst record in 21 seasons.