In the final game of the NBA regular season, the Atlanta Hawks lost a 134-135 nail-biter to the Indiana Pacers on April 10 at State Farm Arena in Atlanta. The Hawks ended the regular season 25th in the league and 12th in the Eastern Conference with a 29-53 record.
Indiana led for the majority of the game, but Hawks shooting guard Justin Anderson drained a tough 26-foot step-back 3-pointer to lift the Hawks to a 127-126 lead with 3:46 remaining in the fourth quarter. Despite Anderson’s remarkable shot, the Hawks and the Pacers continued to trade baskets until Hawks small forward Taurean Prince hit a 3-point jump shot to give the Hawks a 134-132 lead with 2.1 seconds left.
Anticipating the win, Hawks fans roared from the stands. Much to their dismay, Hawks small forward DeAndre’ Bembry fouled Pacers point guard Edmond Sumner on a 3-point attempt with 0.3 seconds remaining, and Sumner sank all three free throws to give the Pacers a 135-134 win.
Hawks Head Coach Lloyd Pierce noted the heartbreaking nature of the loss but said that he had wanted the entire team to have a chance to play in the final game of the season.
“It was an exciting game; we didn’t come out on top, but that is how it works in sports,” Pierce explained. “There’s no moral victory for us in this last game, but I wanted everyone to be part of it in some form or fashion.”
Although the Hawks lost, they had a terrific offensive outing. Atlanta shot 41.5 percent from three, scored 52 points in the paint and converted 33 second chance points. Furthermore, each member of the Atlanta starting five scored in double figures including Prince, rookie point guard Trae Young, first-year shooting guard Kevin Huerter, sophomore power forward John Collins and veteran center Alex Len. Young, Collins and Len each recorded a double-double, posting 23 points and 11 assists, 20 points and 25 rebounds and 20 points and 10 rebounds, respectively.
On the defensive end, both teams played physically. With 5:39 remaining before halftime, Pacers center Kyle O’Quinn was ejected for clobbering Young on the head on a fast-break possession.
Pierce acknowledged the intensity of the game and expressed some of his off-season goals for the up-and-coming squad.
“The summer is about adjusting to the level of physicality in the NBA,” Pierce said. “You have to mentally and physically prepare yourself to do so. The level of physicality that they face — we want to come back and be the aggressor next year.”
With two projected lottery picks and approximately $40 million in cap space for salaries, the Hawks enter the off-season looking to grow stronger, improve defensively, accumulate new talent and continue building on their strong culture. These components, combined with the development of young guns like Young and Collins, point to a very bright future in Atlanta.