Pacers build big lead, coast to win over Hawks
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indiana coach Frank Vogel wants to see his team come out of the All-Star break the way it opened the season when the Pacers won 16 of their first 17 games.
They're off to a good start.
Paul George scored 26 points, including four 3-pointers, to lead the Pacers to a 108-98 victory over the Atlanta Hawks on Tuesday night.
"We understood the dog days (of the season) would be a grind," Vogel said. "Now that's behind us."
David West had 17 points and Lance Stephenson added 13 to help the Pacers beat the Hawks for the second time in three meetings this season.
Not only does Indiana want to start the second half of the season like it did back in October, the Pacers want to be even better. That could be scary for the rest of the NBA.
"We want to peak towards the end of the season and we're on our way," center Roy Hibbert said. "The last 20 games, we want to play our best ball."
Kyle Korver scored 19 points, shooting 5 for 7 on 3-pointers, and Lou Williams added 18 points for the Hawks, who have lost six straight.
The Pacers, who return from the break with three games in five days, went on a 12-2 run in the third quarter on a basket by West, two 3-pointers by George and a dunk and layup by George Hill to stretch the lead to 73-54.
The Pacers put the game away when Ian Mahinmi converted a three-point play and Danny Granger hit a 3 to make it 101-82.
After the Pacers jumped to a 19-point lead in the third quarter, the Hawks scored seven straight. Korver hit a 3, Jeff Teague made two free throws, and Williams had a layup to make it 75-63.
West gave Indiana an 80-67 lead with two free throws before Atlanta scored six straight on shots by Mike Scott, Williams, and Paul Millsap.
For Atlanta, starting a stretch of four games in five nights, the team's injury woes didn't get any better.
Forward DeMarre Carroll was listed as a game-time decision, but didn't play for the second straight game because of a left hamstring strain. And center Gustavo Ayon left in the first half with a right shoulder injury and didn't play in the second half.
The Pacers almost shut the door on the Hawks right from the start, using a 16-0 run to build a 22-5 lead early in the first quarter.
Stephenson hit a 3, West scored twice, and Hibbert made two free throws. Later, George, who scored 14 first-quarter points, hit a jumper, a 3-pointer, and later dunked with 7:00 remaining in the opening period.
"We weren't getting good looks at the basket," Korver said. "They were making everything it seemed like and we dug ourselves a really big hole."
Indiana led by 22 in the first quarter when Stephenson scored with 4:37 left to give the Pacers a 31-9 lead.
The Hawks then went on a 12-2 run. Elton Brand scored and Korver hit a 3-pointer. West made two free throws to extend the lead for Indiana before Williams hit a 3 and two free throws, and Millsap scored to make it 33-19.
"We have to be able to get off to good starts," George said. "We have got to understand that teams are going to rally back, but I thought they made the game closer than it needed to be when we had a good lead."
The Hawks got within three when Korver hit a 3 to make it 52-49 with 1:02 left in the first half, but never could get over the hump.
George made two free throws and Hill hit a 3 with 7.2 seconds left in the first half to give the Pacers a 57-49 halftime lead.
NOTES: Hawks C Pero Antie was out with a right ankle stress fracture. ... F Al Horford was out after having right pectoral muscle surgery. . G John Jenkins was out while recovering from lower back surgery. . Indiana's 35 points in the first quarter was the most Atlanta has given up in the opening quarter this season. . Indiana scored a season-high 35 points off of Atlanta's 22 turnovers.