INDIANAPOLIS (AP)—Atlanta finally has a winning combination.
The Hawks won their second straight for the first time since April 2004 and ended a seven-game road losing streak that dated to last season.
“It’s great for us to come in here and beat a team like this,” Atlanta coach Mike Woodson said. “These last two games we haven’t cracked, and hopefully that’s a sign of maturity.”
Despite shooting 36 percent from the field, Atlanta (2-9) still did enough to win. It outrebounded Indiana and repeatedly beat the Pacers to loose balls.
Harrington finished with 17 points and seven rebounds, while Johnson had 16 points—including a key 3-pointer with 1:10 left to give Atlanta an 82-81 lead. Johnson also had seven rebounds and nine assists.
Most surprising, though, was Indiana’s dreadful effort. The Pacers (7-4) hardly resembled the team that routed Cleveland one day earlier.
They turned the ball over routinely in the opening minutes, spent most of the night playing catch-up and never really appeared in sync. Their three-game winning streak ended against an opponent that hadn’t beaten the Pacers since March 22, 2003.
Part of the explanation for the Pacers’ problems was the loss of Ron Artest, one of the NBA’s best defenders and Indiana’s top scorer. He was deactivated before the game with a bruised right wrist and is to have an MRI on Saturday.
Fred Jones replaced him in the lineup, and coach Rick Carlisle moved Stephen Jackson to small forward—an adjustment that didn’t work. Jackson was 4-of-15 from the field and never was a factor, but Carlisle refused to blame the loss on Artest’s absence.
“You knew there would be some kind of letdown after last night, and not having Artest was a factor,” Carlisle said. “But you can’t let it go the way it did.”
How ugly was it?
On one first-half possession, Jackson was handed the ball on an inbound play as he tied one shoe, and Atlanta knocked it from his hands and out of bounds. When Jackson got the ball back, he was tying his other shoe and nearly threw it away. That drew boos from a crowd that was weary of Indiana’s lazy shots and lack of emotion.
At halftime, O’Neal and Jackson jawed at each other. Neither player elaborated on the confrontation, and Carlisle called it a private team matter.
The Hawks didn’t care.
They jumped to an early lead, then rallied after Indiana scored 10 straight points in the third quarter, including two free throws from O’Neal that gave Indiana its first lead at 47-46 with 5:45 left.
“You could tell they weren’t playing with any energy tonight,” Childress said. “It almost looked like they didn’t want to play today.”
Indiana appeared to right itself early in the fourth quarter when Jasikevicius hit a 3 on the Pacers’ opening possession to give Indiana a 59-57 lead.
But the Hawks stayed close until Johnson’s 3-pointer with 1:10 left gave Atlanta an 82-81 lead.
And when Tyronn Lue missed two free throws with 8.7 seconds left, it appeared Indiana had one more chance. Instead, Johnson grabbed the rebound, drew a foul and hit 1-of-2 free throws to make it 87-85 with 7 seconds remaining.
Jasikevicius’ 3 from the corner bounced off the rim as the buzzer sounded.
“We never dug down, we never made a stand, we can’t just show up,” Pacers forward Austin Croshere said.
Atlanta has now won five of its last 48 road games. … The Hawks’ victory was their first in a non-overtime road game since Dec. 10, 2004. … The 85 points matched a Pacers’ season low. … Atlanta finished with a 56-45 rebounding advantage. … Indiana was 3-of-17 from 3-point range.