7:00 PM ET, February 18, 2014
Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis, IN
INDIANAPOLIS -- Indiana coach Frank Vogel wants to see his team come out of the All-Star break the way it opened the season when the Pacers won 16 of their first 17 games.
They're off to a good start.
"We understood the dog days (of the season) would be a grind," Vogel said. "Now that's behind us."
Not only does Indiana want to start the second half of the season like it did back in October, the Pacers want to be even better. That could be scary for the rest of the NBA.
"We want to peak towards the end of the season and we're on our way," center Roy Hibbert said. "The last 20 games, we want to play our best ball."
The Pacers, who return from the break with three games in five days, went on a 12-2 run in the third quarter on a basket by West, two 3-pointers by George and a dunk and layup by George Hill to stretch the lead to 73-54.
After the Pacers jumped to a 19-point lead in the third quarter, the Hawks scored seven straight. Korver hit a 3, Jeff Teague made two free throws, and Williams had a layup to make it 75-63.
For Atlanta, starting a stretch of four games in five nights, the team's injury woes didn't get any better.
Forward DeMarre Carroll was listed as a game-time decision, but didn't play for the second straight game because of a left hamstring strain. And center Gustavo Ayon left in the first half with a right shoulder injury and didn't play in the second half.
The Pacers almost shut the door on the Hawks right from the start, using a 16-0 run to build a 22-5 lead early in the first quarter.
Stephenson hit a 3, West scored twice, and Hibbert made two free throws. Later, George, who scored 14 first-quarter points, hit a jumper, a 3-pointer, and later dunked with 7:00 remaining in the opening period.
"We weren't getting good looks at the basket," Korver said. "They were making everything it seemed like and we dug ourselves a really big hole."
Indiana led by 22 in the first quarter when Stephenson scored with 4:37 left to give the Pacers a 31-9 lead.
The Hawks then went on a 12-2 run. Elton Brand scored and Korver hit a 3-pointer. West made two free throws to extend the lead for Indiana before Williams hit a 3 and two free throws, and Millsap scored to make it 33-19.
"We have to be able to get off to good starts," George said. "We have got to understand that teams are going to rally back, but I thought they made the game closer than it needed to be when we had a good lead."
The Hawks got within three when Korver hit a 3 to make it 52-49 with 1:02 left in the first half, but never could get over the hump.
George made two free throws and Hill hit a 3 with 7.2 seconds left in the first half to give the Pacers a 57-49 halftime lead.
Hawks C Pero Antie was out with a right ankle stress fracture. ... F Al Horford was out after having right pectoral muscle surgery. . G John Jenkins was out while recovering from lower back surgery. . Indiana's 35 points in the first quarter was the most Atlanta has given up in the opening quarter this season. . Indiana scored a season-high 35 points off of Atlanta's 22 turnovers.
INDIANAPOLIS - FEBRUARY 18: Paul George #24 of the Indiana Pacers handles the ball against the Atlanta Hawks at...(Photo by Ron Hoskins/NBAE via Getty Images)
Around The Association
MVP: He didn't fill up the box score like usual, but Paul George was still the best player on the floor. He finished with 26 points, three assists and three steals, which were just a small part of his defensive menacing of the Hawks' offense.
X factor: The Hawks did a good job shooting the ball, but they turned it over too often to keep pace with Indiana. Atlanta's 22 turnovers led to 35 points for the Pacers.
LVP: All-Star Paul Millsap, who was 3-for-10 shooting with just seven points. Millsap is now shooting 6-for-31 (19.4 percent) this season against Indiana.
Next 5 Games
The Pacers are off to a 41-12 start, the best in franchise history. This is the 5th time in franchise history that they've raced to at least 35 wins in their 1st 53 games - three of the previous four times they reached the Eastern Conference Finals.[+]
Most Wins Through 53 Games - Pacers History
Paul George made his first 6 shots of the game, and his 14 first quarter points almost match his scoring average for the month entering today (17.3 PPG).
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