Wednesday night's matchup between the Atlanta Hawks (7-4) and the Indiana Pacers (7-3) certainly helped to prove the old adage that you can't win an NBA game in one quarter, but you can certainly lose an NBA game with a terrible quarter. Trailing only 53-50 at the half, the Hawks completely imploded in the third quarter. The Pacers capitalized on the opportunity by outscoring Atlanta 29-7 to build a commanding 80-59 lead that turned the final quarter into an audition for backup players on both sides. Garbage time points helped the Hawks to save face in the final score of the 96-84 Pacers win, but make no mistake, this one was well over after just 36 minutes.
Much to the delight of restless Pacers fans, Danny Granger finally woke up and played a very solid game after starting the season in a terrible shooting funk. Despite sporting year-to-date shooting numbers that look more like a batting average and on-base percentage for a speedy center fielder in the MLB (.307 FG, .341 3PT), Granger stepped up on Wednesday night to lead the team with 24 points on 9-16 shooting and 3-5 from the arc. In the third quarter alone, he made five field goals and two three-pointers to outscore the entire Atlanta Hawks squad by a 12-9 margin.
Okay, that's a nice development for Pacers fans, but what the heck happened to the Hawks in the third quarter? Josh Smith, Al Horford and Joe Johnson couldn't manage more than nine points? Al Horford actually exited the game with a left shoulder injury sustained in the first quarter and did not return (he will be evaluated by the team on Thursday), but the remaining Hawks tried everything on the offensive end and simply couldn't buy a bucket. They missed layups and jumpers alike en route to a 25 percent shooting performance in the period (4-20 FGs, 0-4 3PT). Coming out of halftime, the Hawks scored only four points in the first seven minutes and forty-nine seconds of the quarter. Head coach Larry Drew blurred the line between trusting his players and flat-out praying for a quick regression of shooting percentages when he elected to use only one timeout during that entire span, yet his team never did reward his patience. Here is a look at the carnage:
Indiana improved to 4-0 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse this season, joining the Chicago Bulls, Philadelphia 76ers, San Antonio Spurs and Milwaukee Bucks as the only remaining teams in the NBA still perfect at home. After his right eye was scratched during the fourth quarter of Monday's loss to the 76ers, Pacers forward Tyler Hansbrough played Wednesday's game with protective eye wear, but something a bit more stylish than what he wore during practice. He finished with 8 points and 2 steals in 22 minutes of action.