INDIANAPOLIS — If the opening tip-off was any indication as to how the game would go, it was clear the Indiana Pacers didn't have anything for Dwight Howard and the Atlanta Hawks.
As the referee tossed the ball between Myles Turner and Howard, Turner opted against jumping, conceding the tip-off to Howard and the Hawks. It was indicative of how the rest of the game would play out Wednesday night.
“The effort and energy (tonight) started with me and I have to make sure that every night I bring the same effort and energy,” Howard said. “When I'm able to get in there and crash the boards, just get a feel for the game, it makes everything easier.”
Howard had 23 points and 20 rebounds to help the Hawks beat the Pacers 96-85. Paul Millsap added 18 points and 11 rebounds for the Hawks.
“I thought (Dwight) came out with a mindset from the beginning of the game,” Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer said. “It felt like he was getting every rebound, going to the offensive board and getting put backs. He had something to say before the game to the team. I think starting the right way was important and I think he did it with his actions, he did it with his play,”
Indiana rallied to cut Atlanta's lead to a point with 3:42 left in the third quarter, but the Hawks pulled away with a 19-2 run. The Pacers failed to make a basket in the first four minutes of the fourth quarter.
Budenholzer noted it was Atlanta's finish to the third quarter, extending its lead to eight points, that was ultimately what gave the Hawks enough to keep the Pacers at a distance.
Thaddeus Young led the Pacers with 24 points and had seven rebounds. Monta Ellis added 19 points, and Paul George had 18.
The Hawks outrebounded Indiana 56 to 37, and outscored the Pacers 48 to 34 in the paint, and 19 to 11 in second chance points. Indiana had just seven offensive rebounds.
“We just didn't squash down on Howard. I think he had nine offensive rebounds and that's huge when playing a team like the Hawks. You can't let them get offensive rebounds and extra possessions,” Young said.
AN IMPORTANT TAKEAWAY
The Pacers are third in the NBA in turnovers created, forcing their opponents into 16.2 mistakes per game, ranking fourth with an average of 9.2 steals per game. On Wednesday night, the Hawks turned the ball over 21 times, and of those 15 were the result of an Indiana steal.
The Hawks are second in the NBA in fourth quarter defense, allowing opponents 21.8 points per game in the fourth quarter. On Wednesday night, the Hawks held Indiana to 19 points. It was the eighth time this season Atlanta has held it opponent to fewer than 20 points in the fourth quarter. The Hawks are 6-2 when achieving this milestone.
Indiana: Jeff Teague has scored in double figures in each of the last nine games. … Young's 24-point effort was just the second time this season he has scored 20 points or more.
Atlanta: The victory was the Hawks' 100th over Indiana … The Hawks have held at least a 10-point lead in 12 games this season and have six double-digit wins.