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Pacers Fall To Hawks, Lose Ground

Pero Antic and the Atlanta Hawks handed the Indiana Pacers a humiliating home loss on Sunday.

Pero Antic and the Atlanta Hawks handed the Indiana Pacers a humiliating home loss on Sunday.

The Indiana Pacers’ hopes of finishing the season with the Eastern Conference’s No. 1 seed suffered a huge blow Sunday as the visiting Atlanta Hawks downed the title contenders in embarrassing fashion.

The Association’s best team at home all season, the Pacers’ performance was one that might have been less surprising had the team been playing in any of the other 49 states, not in front of the Bankers Life Fieldhouse faithful.

The Hawks, fighting for their playoff lives, jumped out to a 33-11 lead at the end of the first quarter, stifling the Pacers with good defense. That lead grew to 30 points early in the second quarter before Mike Budenholzer’s side took a 55-23 lead into halftime.

That’s right; the Pacers scored just 23 points in 24 minutes of play. The league’s second-best defense also allowed 55 points, an almost unheard of trait this season.

All-Star center Roy Hibbert was held scoreless and kept off the boards during nine first half minutes, before Pacers head coach Frank Vogel pulled him for good. Vogel told the media later that Hibbert “looks worn down” and cited the fact that the 7-footer has appeared in every game this season.

Things improved in the second half with the Pacers outscoring the Hawks by 12 in the third, but it was a case of too little, too late. The Hawks ran out 107-88 victors and the Pacers were left to lick their wounds, wounds that could be deeper than you might think.

Atlanta’s Jeff Teague led all scorers with 25 points, while Pero Antic added 19 – including 3-of-4 from beyond the arc – and Paul Millsapp (17pts, 11rebs) collected a double-double.

Paul George led the Pacers with 18 points, also tallying seven boards and six steals. David West (13pts), George Hill (12pts), Ian Mahinmi (10pts) and Luis Scola (10pts) also scored in double digits.

The result marked the Pacers’ eighth loss in the last 11 games, while the team is just 8-11 since March 4. During that stretch, the team has lost three games at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, matching the number of home losses for the first four months of the season.

This down trend has some questioning whether Vogel’s job is safe, or if Larry Bird will look for change come the offseason.

Indiana (53-25) now trails the Miami Heat (53-23) by two games in the loss column, after the Heat easily dispatched the New York Knicks earlier in the day.

The two results combined make anxious reading for the Pacers, who have two games fewer to play than the Heat and now look to need a miracle to secure the Eastern Conference’s top spot.

Miami by no means has an easy run in, with four of their last six against teams with a winning record and one of the remaining two against the Hawks, fighting for their own playoff seed. That’s good news for the Pacers.

There’s further good news too. The Pacers and Heat will lock horns one more time this regular season, at American Airline Arena in Miami on Friday night. With two wins already over the Heat this season, the Pacers should have some confidence heading into that game, providing they play nothing like they did on Sunday.

For Atlanta (34-42), the shocking victory moved the team one big step closer to locking down the Eastern Conference’s only remaining playoff berth.

The Hawks now sit two games ahead of New York (33-45) and perhaps more crucially, three games ahead in the loss column. The Hawks have a pair of games in hand, the easier remaining schedule and the tiebreaker advantage – the Hawks have a better record against Eastern Conference opponents. It’ll take three wins or three Knicks’ losses, or a combination of both, to secure their postseason place.

The Cleveland Cavaliers (31-47) could still have a say in things, although it’s highly unlikely. The Cavs need to win out and hope both the Hawks and Knicks lose all of their remaining games. In reality, that scenario is likely to be blown up completely when the Hawks host the Detroit Pistons on Tuesday.

Remaining_Games_ATL_NYK_CLE With Monday’s NBA schedule empty to make way for the National Championship Game between Connecticut and Kentucky, the league will take a breather before the final nine days of the regular season determine the first round of the NBA Playoffs.

Keep checking back with BettingSports.com for extensive coverage of the final week.


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