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Pacers easily hold off banged-up Hawks in first game back

The first game back from the All-Star break provided an opportunity to gauge the Pacers' mindset heading into the second half of the season. Despite the lack of rest afforded to All-Stars Paul George and Roy Hibbert, the Pacers were good enough to pull out a 108-98 win against the shorthanded Hawks.

George was red hot early and finished with a game-high 26 points in just 28 minutes, while Hibbert was solid with 10 points, 5 rebounds and 4 blocks in 25 minutes. David West had 17, Lance Stephenson had 13, 5 and 7, and George Hill had an efficient 9 points and 7 assists without a miss and zero turnovers. Danny Granger and Luis Scola had 9 points apiece off the bench.

The Pacers raced out to a 22-point lead in the first quarter but the resilient Hawks were able to pull within 8 by the half. The Pacers came out firing in the third and extended the lead to as much as 19, but again the Hawks fought back and got it to within 7 at one stage. It looked dangerous for the Pacers in the final quarter but the reserves were able to buckle down, led by some great defensive plays by Ian Mahinmi and timely baskets from Danny Granger, and in the end the starters never had to get back in.

In the end, every Pacer played and no starter apart from Lance Stephenson (who played 36) played more than 28 minutes. The rest for the starters is huge as they will travel overnight to Minnesota to take on the well-rested Timberwolves tomorrow. It'll be another good barometer for the team as this game appears to be their toughest until they play the Warriors on March 4.