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Hawks routed by Pacers

POSTED: November 23, 2008 5:00 a.m.

INDIANAPOLIS Danny Granger isn’t ready to consider himself an NBA star just yet.

But the Indiana Pacers’ fourth-year swingman is certainly playing like one.

Granger scored 34 points, including 10 in the fourth quarter, and the Pacers beat the slumping Atlanta Hawks 113-96 on Tuesday night.

"He’s got that killer instinct for a scorer," said Indiana center Rasho Nesterovic, who added 21 points. "He’s so young and he can just go up. He’s definitely going to be a cornerstone of this team for many years."

Granger, who recently signed a five-year contract extension with the Pacers, is taking his development in stride. He entered the night as the league’s 10th-leading scorer at 23.1 points per game.

"Every year that I’ve improved, I was never expecting to improve that much," he said. "It’s just another step I’m adding to my game. ... I still feel like I have a little more ways to go."

Atlanta guard Joe Johnson, who finished with 25 points, was impressed with Granger’s ability to score.

"He’s a pretty good player, I can’t take nothing away from him," Johnson said. "He made a lot of good shots tonight, so give him credit."

Jeff Foster had 12 points and Troy Murphy added 10 points and 19 rebounds for the Pacers (5-5), who won their fifth consecutive home game against Atlanta (6-4). After a 6-0 start, the Hawks have lost four straight.

Granger said the Pacers were more than happy to add to Atlanta’s skid. "We took advantage of the situation and got the win," he said.

Marvin Williams had 14 points and Mike Bibby and Maurice Evans each scored 13 for the Hawks, who never held a lead and trailed by as many as 17 points.

"We haven’t been playing together, playing with any energy, like we were in those first six games," Johnson said. "I think we’ve gotten real complacent and we haven’t been playing team basketball.

"That’s pretty much the NBA season, you’re going to have ups and downs. Like I’ve been telling everybody when we started 6-0, ‘Don’t get ahead of yourself. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.’ It’s a down time for us right now, but we’ll bounce back."

The Pacers, who led 32-25 to end the first quarter, opened a 61-46 advantage on Nesterovic’s three-point play with 51 seconds left in the half. Indiana shot 58 percent from the field and was led by Granger’s 17 points.

Atlanta got within nine points in the third quarter, but Jarrett Jack ended the period with a layup to push the lead back to 88-73. Brandon Rush gave the Pacers their biggest lead, 90-73, early in the fourth quarter.

The Hawks cut the deficit to 95-88 following Johnson’s 3-pointer and Acie Law’s layup with 8 minutes left. Indiana answered with baskets from Marquis Daniels and Granger to regain the momentum.

"I thought we put together four quarters of complete basketball," Pacers coach Jim O’Brien said.Notes: Hawks C Al Horford left the game with 5:21 left in the first quarter with a right ankle injury and did not return. X-rays were negative. "Al is a big part of what we do," Atlanta coach Mike Woodson said. "When he’s missing in terms of clogging up the middle, banging for us and scoring a little, he’s missed." ... Pacers G Mike Dunleavy (right knee) missed the game and has yet to play this season. ... Hawks F Josh Smith (left ankle) and G Speedy Claxton (left knee) did not play. ... Foster hit a rare 3-pointer to end the first quarter. He was 0-for-1 from beyond the arc this season.



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