Basketball / Sports

Hawks can't recover from slow start against Pacers

INDIANAPOLIS -- The Hawks returned from the All-Star break seven minutes and 23 seconds after the Pacers.

The Pacers jumped out to a 22-point lead in the first eight minutes en route to a 108-98 victory over the Hawks Tuesday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. The Pacers made 13 of their first 14 shots to build a 31-9 advantage. The Hawks would trim the deficit to three points by the second quarter only to see the Pacers build another 20-point advantage to start the second half.

As if that wasn't enough bad news, the injury-riddled Hawks lost two more players. Center Gustavo Ayon suffered a right shoulder injury and did not play in the second half. Guard Lou Williams, who had 18 points, had to leave in the fourth quarter with a severe headache.

The Hawks (25-27, 9-18 road) lost their sixth straight game. It was their second straight defeat to the Eastern Conference leading Pacers.

Kyle Korver led the Hawks with 19 points, including five 3-pointers. He extended his NBA-record streak to 121 games with a 3-pointer. Paul Millsap had just seven points on 3-of-10 shooting. In three games against the Pacers this season, the Hawks All-Star is a combined 6 of 31 from the floor.

"First, they are a very good defensive team," coach Mike Budenholzer said before the game. "They make it hard on a lot of people. I don't know they've done anything different or specific against Paul that we've picked up on. ... Their defensive ability and efficiency is very good and they've made it difficult on all of us."

The Pacers (41-12, 26-3 home) were led by Paul George with game-high 26 points. George entered the game as the NBA's 11th leading scorer with 22.2 points per game. David West added 17 points.

The Pacers started white hot to build a 22-point first-quarter lead. They were aided by seven Hawks turnovers. The Hawks began to cut into the 31-9 deficit by ending the opening period on a 14-4 run.

The Hawks continued to claw their way back in what appeared to be a blowout and got as close as three points, 52-49, on a Korver 3-pointer with 1:02 remaining in the half. The Pacers scored the next five points to go into intermission with a 57-49 lead.

The Pacers came out nearly as hot in the third quarter and used an 18-5 run to build another 20-point advantage. They led by 21 points, 75-56, only to have the Hawks trim their deficit to seven points. It was the second time the Hawks cut a 20-point deficit to single digits -- a dangerous game to play against the Pacers.

The Hawks lost Ayon in the second quarter. He briefly went to the locker room but returned to the game in the second quarter. It was announced following intermission that he would not return. It left the Hawks with one healthy center, Elton Brand, to finish the game. He picked up his fifth foul in the fourth quarter.

The Hawks host the Wizards Wednesday. It starts a stretch of three key games in the Eastern Conference standings as they then travel to the Pistons Friday and host the Knicks Saturday.

(c)2014 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Atlanta, Ga.)

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