GAME RECAP: Pacers 112, Hawks 87

Bojan Bogdanovic scored 21 points to help the Indiana Pacers cruise to victory over Atlanta Hawks.

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GAME RECAP: Pacers 112, Hawks 87

Bojan Bogdanovic scored 21 points to help the Indiana Pacers cruise to victory over Atlanta Hawks.
Mar 9, 2018  |  00:01

Oladipo Throws Down the Alley-Oop

March 09, 2018: Atlanta Hawks vs. Indiana Pacers - Highlights
Mar 9, 2018  |  02:44

Postgame: Pacers Locker Room - March 9, 2018

March 9, 2018 - Pacers players Darren Collison, Victor Oladipo, Trevor Booker, and Myles Turner discussed Indiana's 112-87 win over the Atlanta Hawks on Friday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Mar 9, 2018  |  02:53

Collison Beats the Buzzer

March 09, 2018: Atlanta Hawks vs. Indiana Pacers - Highlights
Mar 9, 2018  |  02:23

Booker Knocks Down a 3

March 09, 2018: Atlanta Hawks vs. Indiana Pacers - Highlights
Mar 9, 2018  |  02:52

Bojan Drains the 3

March 09, 2018: Atlanta Hawks vs. Indiana Pacers - Highlights
Mar 9, 2018  |  02:54

Oladipo With the Nifty Pass to Turner

March 09, 2018: Atlanta Hawks vs. Indiana Pacers - Highlights
Mar 9, 2018  |  02:26

Lance With the Acrobatic Finish

March 09, 2018: Atlanta Hawks vs. Indiana Pacers - Highlights
Mar 9, 2018  |  02:39

Turner Says No

March 09, 2018: Atlanta Hawks vs. Indiana Pacers - Highlights
Mar 9, 2018  |  02:03

Turner Drains the 3

March 09, 2018: Atlanta Hawks vs. Indiana Pacers - Highlights
Mar 9, 2018  |  01:47

Joseph With the Lefty Finish

March 09, 2018: Atlanta Hawks vs. Indiana Pacers - Highlights
Mar 9, 2018  |  01:42

Pacers Show How to Deal with Tough Schedule

by Mark Montieth Writer

The schedule turns sinister for the Pacers from here on out, with 10 of their remaining 16 games on the road, and eight of those 10 coming against teams that are certain or in contention to qualify for the playoffs.

Their 112-87 victory over Atlanta on Friday could be viewed as a mere rest stop before heading onto difficult roads, but it was more valuable than that. It provided a template for how they'll have to navigate the most difficult and crucial stretch of their season.

They had Victor Oladipo looking like a different player, adjusting his approach to dealing with double-teams by becoming more playmaker than scorer. They had Darren Collison returning from an 11-game absence but looking like he had never left. They had Myles Turner continuing to look like the physical player he's been over the past month or so. And, they had Trevor Booker looking like he hasn't been anything but a member of the Pacers this season.

Most of all, they had a complete collection of healthy players, a bonus for any team at this point of the season.

PLAYOFF PICTURE: Track the Pacers' Playoff Push »

Start with Oladipo, because he got the Pacers off to a good start. Not with a scoring outburst, but by not even looking to score. He didn't take a shot until 2:52 remained in the first quarter (hitting a 12-foot floater) and took just one more in the second period (missing a 3-pointer).

It's not what you expect from a team's leading scorer and lone All-Star, but it's what Oladipo has to do to counter defenses that are increasingly ganging up on him as he dribbles off screens. He had struggled mightily in his previous two games, hitting 6-of-19 shots in Wednesday's loss to Utah and 5-of-19 shots in Monday's victory over Milwaukee. This time he focused on initiating the offense, often looking like the second coming of Mark Jackson — a pass-first point guard.

He had four of his team-high five assists by halftime, and each of them set up a 3-pointer: Cory Joseph's on the Pacers' first possession, Turner's midway through the first period, another by Joseph three possessions later and another by Turner late in the second quarter.

Oladipo and coach Nate McMillan had watched video together in the wake of Wednesday's loss and discussed how to deal with defenses that were treating him like an All-Star, rather than just another guy.

"When you've got three people guarding you, if you come off any action? You might want to start getting people involved so things can clear up a little bit," he said. "That's basically what happened today.

"It's new for me, you know what I mean? All the attention, the defense making sure I'm not effective. I've got to find ways around it. I've just trying to learn day-in and day-out and keep trying to get better.

"Just making the simple, right play. It turned out good for me."

Oladipo finished with 17 points, hitting 7-of-9 shots, in 25 1/2 minutes. Fifteen of his points came in the third period, when he hit all but one of his seven field goal attempts and two of his three 3-pointers. Those points came easily, largely because the Hawks couldn't focus too sharply on him because of how he had played the first half.

"Vic has been doing a good job of deferring," Collison said. "He knows he's going to have most of the attention on him. In this game he did a good job of making sure the ball moved and guys got their shots. That's what you want from your best player. Now everybody's feeling it. Then the second half he came on.

"He can pretty much get his whenever he wants. He's an All-Star for a reason. Vic's starting to figure it out. He understands he's going to have that attention on him every night, so there's different ways to go about it."

Collison, meanwhile, attracted plenty of attention of his own. Playing for the first time since Feb. 3 because of arthroscopic surgery on his left knee, he played 20 1/2 minutes off the bench. He was supposed to go just 10-15 rust-shaking minutes, but he was playing too well and lobbying too hard to come out sooner. Finally, athletic trainer Josh Corbeil insisted that McMillan pull the plug.

"I tried to swindle Coach," Collison admitted later. "I told him it hadn't been that many minutes.

"We had a good flow out there. I was a little tired, but the only way to get back in shape is to play."

Collison wasted no time finding a groove. He entered the game with 3:10 left in the first quarter, and connected on a reverse layup off a feed from Glenn Robinson III 90 seconds later. He the period by hitting a turnaround jumper from behind the 3-point line with a hand in his face just ahead of the buzzer, giving the Pacers a 34-15 lead.

"It just went," he said smiling. "I need to start working on it more."

Collison finished with 17 points, hitting 7-of-10 shots, including both 3-point attempts. He also had five assists and no turnovers, which will only aid his pursuit of the league lead in assist-to-turnover ratio. Brooklyn's Spencer Dinwiddie is at 4.4, while Collison is second at 4.2.

"If you hope for something, you hope for what he did tonight," McMillan said. "He was playing good minutes, knocking down shots, looked like he didn't miss a beat."

McMillan went with a three-guard lineup of Oladipo, Collison, and Cory Joseph at times, and liked what he saw. Joseph also played well, finishing with 18 points, seven rebounds, and four assists, but will go back to a reserve role soon — perhaps as early as Sunday's game in Boston,.

Collison said he doesn't care when he starts again. He was just happy to play again, and play better than he had a right to expect. The training staff had prepared him diligently and patiently, and McMillan had put him in post-practice scrimmages with out-of-rotation players and other staff members.

"It doesn't necessarily happen like that," he said of his effective return. "But I worked my butt off. (Strength coach) Shawn Windle, Josh Corbeil, they really helped me get to this point. Playing with guys (in practice) like Al Jefferson, AP (Alex Poythress), TJ (Leaf) kind of helped me get back in shape."

"Hell, yeah!" Leaf shouted from the next locker over, a joking acknowledgment of his recognition.

Turner was happy, too, and earned the right. His 12 rebounds amounted to his sixth double-figure rebound game since Jan. 31. He had four such games in his first 33 appearances. He also scored 17 points, hitting 3-of-5 three-pointers, despite sitting out the fourth quarter along with Oladipo and Thaddeus Young.

Booker, playing his second game with the Pacers, had eight rebounds to go with eight points in 17 minutes, 46 seconds. He's supposed to be a good rebounder, but isn't supposed to be a good 3-point shooter. He hit just 26 percent of his limited attempts with Brooklyn and Philadelphia this season but hit both on Friday.

"I just felt comfortable shooting it," he said. "In Philly I didn't feel comfortable shooting it. Hopefully they keep going in here. I'm going to keep working on it."

As Booker talked, Oladipo began singing loudly while walking to the shower, holding a small sound bar that blasted out a song. Booker's been around. He's in his eighth NBA season, having played in Washington, Utah, Brooklyn, and Philadelphia before signing with the Pacers last weekend. He's had a lot of teammates.

"This dude is crazy," he said, smiling. "Give him some medicine or something. I don't know what's wrong with him. No, he's a cool dude. He gets the locker room going the right way, keeping everything positive. Win or lose, we can definitely use that.

"I've been around a lot of positive guys, but he's probably at the top of the list. Always yelling, always smiling."

Say what you want about the caliber of the opponent, Friday's game offered plenty for the Pacers to smile about. Yell about, too. It was an encouraging start to a dangerous journey.

Have a question for Mark? Want it to be on Email him at and you could be featured in his next mailbag.

Mark Montieth's book, "Reborn: The Pacers and the Return of Pro Basketball to Indianapolis," covers the formation and early seasons of the franchise. It is available at retail outlets throughout Indiana and online at sources such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Note: The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Indiana Pacers. All opinions expressed by Mark Montieth are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Indiana Pacers, their partners, or sponsors.

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