Hawks Beat Pacers, Sweep Season Series
Atlanta 94, Indiana 93
ATLANTA, March 29 (Ticker) -- In all likelihood, the Indiana Pacers will secure their ninth straight trip to the postseason. They will be happy to not see the Atlanta Hawks there.
The Pacers were swept by the Hawks for the first time in 21 years, suffering a 94-93 loss as foul-plagued Jermaine O'Neal missed an open jumper in the final seconds.
"I wish we would play them 80 times this year," said Harrington, acquired by Atlanta in 2004 for current Pacer Stephen Jackson. "We may be all right (then). That's a great team there. We're somehow able to outplay them."
"They simply have our number," Jackson said. "(Stuff) happens. They play hard. They play so hard, they are able to beat any team on any given night."
Atlanta (22-48) held a 70-69 lead entering the final period and used 3-pointers by Josh Childress and Harrington to build an 86-75 advantage with 6:01 to play. Childress scored 13 points off the bench.
The Pacers rallied behind Stojakovic, who made seven 3-pointers and scored 31 points. He came into the contest having made just four of his last 24 shots from the arc but drained four in the last four-plus minutes.
"We can't be down seven or eight points in the last four minutes of the game and expect to turn things around," Stojakovic said. "The energy and focus have to be there the full 48 minutes."
Two free throws by Harrington gave Atlanta a 92-87 lead with 1:59 remaining, but Stojakovic sank a 3-pointer before missing an open one that could have given Indiana the lead.
With a minute to go, Joe Johnson made a lane jumper for a 94-90 lead. Stojakovic hit another 3-pointer with 10 seconds left, and the Pacers had a chance to win after Harrington missed two foul shots.
However, Stojakovic was covered on the inbounds pass, which went to O'Neal. His 17-footer hit the back iron and was run down by Jamaal Tinsley, who passed to Fred Jones too late for another shot.
"We wanted Peja or Jermaine to get the ball," Pacers coach Rick Carlisle said. "In those situations, it's tough to get shots. The other team is really tuned in. I thought Jermaine did a really good job getting the ball and getting off a good shot. We'd rather have laid the ball in. But those things are quite unlikely in those circumstances."
"We defended it right up until the end," Hawks coach Mike Woodson said. "I think we made proper switches on their last sets and we were able to get the stop when we needed it."
Zaza Pachulia had 17 points and nine rebounds for the Hawks, who had not swept the Pacers since the 1984-85 season, when they won all six meetings. Atlanta also completed its first four-game sweep of an Eastern Conference foe since sweeping Cleveland in the 2002-03 campaign.
"We seem to have their number this year," Hawks forward Josh Smith said. "They are a playoff team, so it feels good to beat them, especially that we could beat them four times."
"I think we feel comfortable when we play them," Woodson said. "We know what's coming. We just seem to play well against them. I don't know what it is."
O'Neal scored 13 points and Jones added 12 for the Pacers (35-35), who fell one-half game behind Milwaukee into seventh place in the East. They began this season having won their last seven meetings with the Hawks.
"We'll look back and kick ourselves about what could have been," Carlisle said. "But you have to give Atlanta credit. They fight hard. They play well."
The Pacers held a 47-44 halftime lead behind 16 points from Stojakovic, despite O'Neal sitting for most of the second quarter after picking up his third foul.