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Pacers lose season opener in shootout

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

By PAUL NEWBERRY

AP Sports Writer

ATLANTA (AP) -- Joe Johnson scored 25 points, Al Horford had 24 and the Atlanta Hawks finally played some defense in an offensive shootout, pulling away in the fourth quarter for a season-opening 120-109 victory over the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday night.

The Pacers shot 53 percent from the field but only 5 of 15 in the final period, including an uncontested layup at the end. They also turned it over six times to finish with a staggering 25 giveaways, leading to 32 points for the home team.

Danny Granger led Indiana with 31 points, but only one other starter was in double figures. Earl Watson added 20 points for the Pacers.

For the first three quarters, the teams just ran up and down the court, barely contesting each other's shots. At one point, Atlanta coach Mike Woodson pleaded, "Come on, man, play some defense" to no one in particular.

The Hawks finally heeded the message in the fourth. They had four steals, three blocks and went after every Indiana shot with a vengeance, shutting off a team that had scored at will over the first three quarters.

Mike Bibby had only 10 points, but eight came in the final period. His 3-pointer with 8 minutes left put Atlanta ahead for good, 103-101, and sparked a 10-0 run that finally slowed the run-and-gun Pacers.

The Hawks, coming off two straight trips to the playoffs, focused on deepening their bench during the offseason while keeping the lineup intact. The moves paid off right away -- 10 players scored for Atlanta, which often got by last season with a seven- or eight-man rotation.

All five starters were in double figures for the Hawks, including Josh Smith with 18 and Marvin Williams 14. Maurice Evans added 12 off the bench.

The Pacers didn't provide much help for Granger, who shot 10 of 18 and made five 3-pointers. Troy Murphy had 14 points and 10 rebounds, but no other starter had more than six points.

Indiana dominated the boards much of the game, but Hawks closed the gap to 40-35 by the end. They outrebounded Indiana 12-7 in the fourth.

Notes: Jeff Teague, the Hawks' first-round pick, played 13 1/2 minutes and scored the first five points of his career. ... Despite making it to the second round of the playoffs for the first time in a decade, Atlanta failed to sell out its opener at Philips Arena. The announced crowd was 17,998, about 2,000 short of capacity.



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