The Indiana Pacers will enter 2019 as the hottest team in the Eastern Conference.
The Pacers (25-12) picked up their fifth straight win and their 12th in their last 14 games, handling the Hawks (11-25) in a New Year's Eve matinee, 116-108.
Indiana ends 2018 in third place in the East, trailing only Milwaukee (by one game) and Toronto (by a game and a half).
"We had a good 2018," Pacers coach Nate McMillan said after the win. "We want 2019 to be just as good as 2018 has been to us. We've played some good basketball. One of our goals is to win 10+ games each month."
The Pacers exceeded that goal in December, going 12-3 over the final month of the calendar year.
All-Star guard Victor Oladipo led six Pacers players in double figures on Monday afternoon. The 6-4 guard racked up 22 points on 9-of-19 shooting to go along with four rebounds, seven assists, and four steals.
Myles Turner added 20 points, eight rebounds, four assists, and four blocks before exiting in the third quarter with a broken nose. Turner went 7-for-9 from the field and 3-for-4 from 3-point range.
Turner injured his nose taking an inadvertent hand to the face from John Collins while contesting a dunk attempt. He did not return for the fourth quarter, but hopes to be back in the lineup on Friday in Chicago, likely wearing a mask.
"It's just a little sore right now," Turner said. "I'm going to get it out checked out even more tomorrow, but I'm not overly concerned about it. I think it's just a casualty of war, I'm just going to keep going."
The Hawks got off to a hot start, knocking down four of their first five attempts from 3-point range while racing out to an early 20-13 lead. But the Pacers weathered the storm and then answered with a 17-1 run of their own to move in front.
Behind eight points from Darren Collison and six more from Bojan Bogdanovic, Indiana took a 33-25 lead into the second quarter.
The hosts extended their advantage to 12 early in the second, but Atlanta scored the next 10 points to climb back into the game. The visitors eventually moved in front when Alex Len rebounded his own miss free throw and threw down a dunk that gave the Hawks a 53-51 lead with 4:13 remaining in the half.
The two teams traded the lead seven times over the rest of the quarter. Turner closed the half with a flourish, scoring seven points in the final minute for Indiana, including a buzzer-beating 3-pointer that put the Pacers in front (he also blocked Jeremy Lin's layup on the other end to set up his buzzer beater).
The Pacers maintained their lead after halftime. They opened the third quarter on a 13-6 run and Turner scored nine more points in a 7:16 shift before breaking his nose.
Oladipo racked up seven points and three assists over the same span as the Blue & Gold's starters extended the lead to as many as 13 points.
"They were leaving (Turner), (so I was) passing it to him and he was making big shots and defending and protecting our paint," Oladipo said. "Luckily it wasn't anything major, (though) a broken nose isn't great."
The close to the third quarter mirrored the end of the second, as Tyreke Evans buried a step-back triple to give Indiana its largest lead of the night at 97-81.
The Pacers led by as many as 17 early in the fourth quarter. The Hawks slowly chipped away at that margin, with four straight points from John Collins making it a 110-103 game with 3:39 to play.
But the Pacers righted the ship. Thaddeus Young spun around Vince Carter on the baseline for a bucket with 2:44 remaining and then Darren Collison got a steal and score to push the lead back to double digits.
Atlanta mounted one last charge, with a Kevin Huerter 3-pointer and Trae Young layup making it a six-point game, but that would be as close as they would get.
"It was time to get a stop," Collison said. "We did a good job of getting some steals and getting out in the open court and getting some buckets."
The Hawks are near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, but have actually won five of their past seven games, with both of those losses over that span coming against Indiana.
Domantas Sabonis had 20 points and eight rebounds off the bench for the Blue & Gold on Monday. Bojan Bogdanovic added 16 points, Collison had 12 points and six assists, while Tyreke Evans finished with 10 points.
Rookie Huerter led the Hawks with a career-best 22 points while going 6-for-9 from 3-point range. Collins added 22 points and 16 rebounds, while Len finished with 19 points and seven boards.
The Pacers will begin the New Year with three days off before embarking on their longest road trip of the season, a five-game jaunt through Eastern Conference cities. Their next game is in Chicago on Friday, Jan. 4 at 8:00 PM ET.
Photo Credit: Jessica Hoffman
Inside the Numbers
Oladipo topped 20 points for the fourth time in 10 games since returning from an 11-game absence due to sore right knee.
Indiana's bench outscored Atlanta's reserves, 40-21.
The Pacers had a season-best 27 fasbtreak points in the win, three more than their previous high, set on Oct. 20 vs. Brooklyn.
Indiana scored 21 points on 17 turnovers, while only committing 11 giveaways on the other end.
Huerter set new career marks for both points and 3-pointers made in the loss.
You Can Quote Me On That
"We're just continuing to learn each other and continuing to grow. Everybody's getting better and the great part is we can improve. We can still get better." -Oladipo
"With ball movement, it's a simple game. When guys are open, you get them the ball and you don't care about who shoots or who scores. You just play the game together and if you play the game that way and do a good job of taking care of the ball, guys are going to get opportunities and you are going to be able to score points." -McMillan
"We're confident. We just have to keep the confidence rolling. Keep being ourselves, don't try to do too much and keep our defensive efforts high." -Turner
"I thought our guys fought. We gave ourselves an opportunity, down 15, 16 in the fourth quarter. We get to a two-possession game, we just picked the wrong time to turn the ball over." -Hawks head coach Lloyd Pierce
"We stayed with them in the game like we wanted to the whole time, stayed in striking distance, we did a good job of fighting back into the fourth quarter to be able to make a play for the end of the game. But I just think down the stretch our execution hurt us and they were able to capitalize at home." -Collins
Stat of the Game
Turner's four blocks on Monday bring him to 103 on the season. Anthony Davis is the next closest player in the NBA with 87 rejections.
- The Pacers are now 3-0 on the year against the Hawks and have won the season series with Atlanta in each of the last three seasons. The two teams will meet once more this season in Atlanta on April 10.
- Hawks guard Kent Bazemore, who scored a career-high 34 points against the Pacers on Dec. 26 in Atlanta, did not play on Monday due to a sprained right ankle.
- The Pacers are 16-5 on the year when six or more players score in double figures.
The Pacers begin a five-game road trip on Friday, Jan. 4 in Chicago, when they will take on Lauri Markkanen at the Bulls at 8:00 PM ET.
After a five-game road trip, the Pacers will return to Bankers Life Fieldhouse to host Devin Booker and Phoenix Suns on Tuesday, Jan. 15 at 7:00 PM ET. Find Tickets »