Indiana Pacers Can’t Exorcise Philips Arena Demons

Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

It’s been a really long time since the Indiana Pacers have won a regular season game in Atlanta (not since 2006) and the Atlanta Hawks made sure that streak continued. A slow start — a common symptom the Pacers have on the back-end of back-to-backs this year — and the loss of Lance Stephenson was too much for the team to overcome and they fell 97-87.

Stephenson was dressed in street clothes for the first time this season after suffering a right knee contusion against the Toronto Raptors on Tuesday. He attempted to warm up, but ended up being a no-go. The energy he normally brings to this Pacers squad was nowhere to be found Wednesday night, and it added yet another layer to how valuable Stephenson really is to this Pacers team.

Indiana missed their first five shots, allowing Atlanta to jump out to a 12-0 lead in the first quarter. By the end of the quarter, the Pacers had rallied to score 12 points and only trailed by 13. But they never hit their stride on either end of the court. They shot 40.2 percent and allowed the Hawks to shoot 45.3 percent, including 43.5 percent from three-point range.

It was the deadly combination of Kyle Korver (17 points, 3-5 from three), rookie Pero Antic (16 points, 3-5 from three) and Jeff Teague (15 points, six assists, five rebounds) who put the Hawks up by 25 at one point and thwarted the Pacers comeback efforts at the end

Paul George scored a game-high 28 points, but had to take 25 shots to do so, which isn’t the norm for him, and Danny Granger added 14 points in his first start in almost two years. It was the Pacers’ big men who struggled mightily last night. Roy Hibbert shot 1-of-8 and couldn’t get a handle defensively on Antic, while David West shot 4-of-11 while holding Paul Millsap to only four points.

The Pacers now sport a 6-5 record on back-end games of back-to-backs. They maintained their spot among the top of the league with a 28-7 record, but they have another 10 back-to-back games to go this year and they need to figure out a way to do better than 50 percent. Another tough loss for the league’s best team, but hard to complain when there’s only been seven of them.

Mathew Muncy is an Indiana Pacers writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @MMuncy, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google.

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