The names in the headline may not be all that familiar, but the highlight is just as worthy as those featuring the game’s biggest stars.
Early on in the Pacers’ win over the Cavaliers on Saturday, C.J. Miles got loose on the fast break. Orlando Johnson was back and decided to contest, and it’s worth wondering if he might have forgotten that Miles was left-handed here, considering the way he allowed him to go that way before elevating to finish the slam in transition.
Pacers’ playoff-best offense disintegrates in Atlanta
Devin Harris needed just 4.5 seconds to slice through the Pacers’ defense for a layup late in the first half, leaving only 1.8 seconds for the Pacers. George Hill launched a desperation heave that obviously missed, but the look was only marginally better than the shots Indiana got most of the game.
The Hawks’ offense came easy enough, and the Pacers forced quick shots to make their offense difficult enough, and now, Indiana’s series lead is suddenly a dicey 2-1 after a 90-69 Game 3 loss today. Since early in the second quarter, Atlanta’s lead fluctuated between 18 and 28 points
The Pacers, despite playing a top-10 regular-season defense, entered the game an NBA-best 117.8 points per 100 possessions. Today, their offensive rating sunk to 70.2.
I suppose the Hawks deserve some credit, making this series as close a series can be through three games, but Indiana just played bad. Despite their well-deserved reputation as a tough team, the Pacers have the worst road record (19-21) of any top-five seed in either conference, and they’ve lost 12 straight in Atlanta. The last time Indiana won there, Stephen Jackson and Al Harrington led the team in scoring.
These new-look Pacers have more talent, but they shot just 27 percent from the field and 16 percent on 3-pointers. Indiana’s backcourt was particularly bad, with guards George Hill, Lance Stephenson, D.J. Augustin, Orlando Johnson and Ben Hansbrough combining to shoot 2-for-25. But the Pacers’ problems weren’t isolated to those five. Indiana finished with as many field goals as turnovers (22).
The Hawks didn’t play great – they shot below 43 percent from the field, below 27 percent on 3-pointers and below 58 percent on free three throws – but they stopped doing all the things wrong that plagued them in the series’ first two games. Al Horford had 26 points, 16 rebounds, two steals and two blocks, which is what he can do when Larry Drew doesn’t foolishly sit him for picking up early fouls.
Ivan Johnson replaced Kyle Korver in the starting lineup, and although Johnson played OK (six points and four rebounds in 14 minutes), the Hawks probably picked the wrong physical player in a switch to a bigger lineup. Petro was the only Atlanta player with a negative plus-minus (-3). The Hawks played much better with Ivan Johnson, who had seven points and seven rebounds and a +21 rating. They were better with even displaced-starter Korver, who was +14.
Atlanta made adjustments and played better, but that wasn’t the story of Game 3. Really, this was about the Pacers just falling apart in a tough environment.
Baseline-to-Baseline recaps: One streak continues, another dies
Hornets 110, Nuggets 86: It was just an off night for the Nuggets. No energy, not great defense, shots were not falling (Denver shot just 42 percent in the paint) and they didn’t have Ty Lawson healthy to lift them out of the rut. Credit New Orleans for playing their game — they controlled the boards, the tempo and knocked down threes. We broke this game down in more detail as well.
Wizards 107, Grizzlies 94: John Wall went off for a career-high 47 points to go with eight assists and seven rebounds. Washington hasn’t always backed up its franchise player’s better games – the Wizards were 0-3 in Wall’s three highest scoring games before Tuesday – but Emeka Okafor (21 points and nine rebounds) and crew came through to help beat a quality team.
The Grizzlies, 3-4 in their last seven games, have returned to earth after winning 14 of 15. (Remember when a run like that seemed like a big deal?) But there’s little shame in losing to the Wizards, who’ve beaten five of the six teams – Heat, Thunder, Clippers and Nuggets – with a better record than Memphis. —Dan Feldman
Warriors 109, Lakers 103: This game was nowhere near as close as the score would indicate. Golden State pounced on a Lakers team that seemed multiple steps slow all night long, and had them doubled up at 28-14 in the game’s first 11 minutes. The Warriors used hot shooting and exploited a lack of team defense from L.A. to score seemingly at will for most of the contest.
The lead was 23 by halftime, and reached 25 in the third quarter before a late fourth quarter Lakers rally fell short. L.A. never threatened despite the reasonable final margin.
There were too many shots from Kobe Bryant, who finished with 36 points on 11-27 shooting (and 2-10 from three-point distance). Pau Gasol was ineffective in just 23 minutes of action with seven points and eight rebounds, and Metta World Peace sat out the second half with a strained left knee.
That’s three straight losses for the Lakers, who remain a game ahead of the Utah Jazz for the eighth and final playoff spot in the West. The Mavericks are just a game and a half back, and have been playing much better as of late, so the playoff position that the Lakers first found themselves in a couple of weeks back is anything but guaranteed at this point. —Brett Pollakoff
Pacers 100, Hawks 94: No five-man lineup has outscored opponents by more this season than Indiana’s George Hill, Lance Stephenson, Paul George, David West and Roy Hibbert. But the Pacers were out of luck, out of luck, out of luck with Hill (groin), Stephenson (hip) and West (back) injured. Indiana had been outscored by 44 points without any of those three in 555 minutes entering Tuesday.
Somehow, a lineup of D.J. Augustin, Orlando Johnson, Sam Young, Jeff Pendergraph and Hibbert – the Pacers’ version of March madness – outscored the Hawks 16-5 during a six-minute stretch of the second quarter, and Indiana never trailed again.
Led by Josh Smith (20 points, four assists, four steals and two blocks), the Hawks cut the Pacers’ lead to 94-90 with less than a minute left. But Gerald Green answered with a 3-pointer on his way to 17 second-half points. —Dan Feldman
Jazz 107, Sixers 91: Utah snapped a four-game losing streak by jumping on Philadelphia early and not letting up all night long. It was 10-0 to start the game thanks to a run that included a couple of threes from Gordon Hayward, and the Jazz closed the half on a 13-2 run that saw them lead by 16 at the break. The Sixers were unable to get closer than 12 the rest of the way.<
Philadelphia shot just 38.6 percent from the field for the game, while Utah’s offensive attack was balanced with seven players finishing in double figures scoring.
With this win, the Jazz remain just a game back of the Lakers for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference, despite winning just four of their last 16 games. —Brett Pollakoff