Pacers winning streak fails to reach six

SportsFootballTroy MurphyJamal CrawfordLos Angeles LakersIndiana PacersJoe Johnson

It's not every day that Zaza Pachulia passes behind his back while dribbling on a fast break.

Josh Smith, who took Pachulia's fourth-quarter assist for an uncontested dunk, was delighted by the reserve center's unexpected athleticism.

"Zaza likes to do his thing a little bit in the open court, so I'm not going to hate on his shine," Smith said with a smile. "It was a better pass than a dunk."

Smith had 21 points and 13 rebounds, Al Horford added 18 points and 12 boards, and the Atlanta Hawks snapped the Indiana Pacers' five-game winning streak with a 94-84 victory on Sunday.

The Hawks, who had dropped two of three overall, increased their home winning streak to a season-high eight games.

Troy Murphy scored 21 for Indiana, which was trying to win six straight games for the first time since 2005. Danny Granger, who was coming off a career-high 44 points in a home win Friday over Utah, finished with 18. He had averaged 31.9 over the previous seven games.

Particularly troublesome for Indiana was its poor perimeter shooting. After hitting six of nine 3-point attempts in the first quarter, the Pacers were 2 for 17 the rest of the game.

"Atlanta always gives you a problem because they switch every ball screen," Granger said. "We really didn't take advantage of it the way we should have tonight. We just gave them too many points in the paint, too. Too many easy points. We got the same [3-point] shots but we missed them."

Atlanta has won six straight over the Pacers overall and six in a row at Philips Arena.

"Their athleticism up front always gives us problems," Indiana coach Jim O'Brien said. "They were quicker to the offensive rebounds, quicker driving by us with Josh Smith and Al Horford. We've struggled with them all year."

After Jamal Crawford missed a straightaway 3-point attempt midway through the third, Horford had three rebounds on the same possession before his putback forced a 59-all tie.

"He's been consistent since the first day he stepped foot in Atlanta," Hawks coach Mike Woodson said of Horford. "He's been fantastic. He's been on a nice roll lately, getting [eight consecutive] double-doubles, and we're going to need him to continue to do that."

Playoff-bound Atlanta took control shortly afterward and built a 17-point lead on consecutive dunks by Smith, the second of which made it 84-67 with 6:57 remaining.

The previous dunk, however, was a season highlight for Pachulia's fan club.

Pachulia, a native of Tbilisi, Georgia, first beat Roy Hibbert to a loose ball created by Granger's turnover and then began dribbling up the open court. Since Smith was trailing behind him, Pachulia froze Hibbert by making a behind-the-back pass with his right hand.

"That was a great pass," guard Joe Johnson said. "I think he should have been a guard, anyway."

Pachulia, who averages 4.0 points and 3.6 rebounds in 13.5 minutes per game, wasn't sure if he would watch the replay after he returned home Sunday night.

"I hope so," he said with a grin.

The Hawks believe the next two games should help them gauge what to expect of their third straight trip to the playoffs. After the defending NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers play at Philips Arena on Wednesday, Atlanta will visit Cleveland, which has the league's best record, on Friday.

"It's not going to be easy," Crawford said. "They're two tough teams, two of the best in the league."

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