INDIANAPOLIS — Mike Dunleavy scored 28 points, and the Indiana Pacers beat the Atlanta Hawks 112-98 Tuesday night to avoid elimination from the Eastern Conference playoff race.
A win by the Hawks would have knocked the Pacers from playoff contention, and Atlanta would have needed just one win or a New Jersey loss the rest of the way to clinch a berth.
Instead, the Pacers are just two games behind the Hawks for the eighth spot with four games left. The Pacers also claimed the tiebreaker against the Hawks by winning two of the three matchups this season.
Flip Murray had 20 points and 10 rebounds, Danny Granger scored 16 points and Marquis Daniels added 15 for Indiana. The Pacers, one of the hottest teams in the East, have won three straight and nine of 12.
Joe Johnson led the Hawks with 30 points. Josh Smith had 25 points and 13 rebounds, and Josh Childress added 16 points and 12 rebounds for Atlanta.
Indiana and Atlanta have four games left. Atlanta has tough home games against Boston and Orlando. Indiana’s toughest remaining games are at Philadelphia and at Washington. The Hawks haven’t been to the postseason since the 1998-99 season, the longest drought in the league.
Indiana shot 51 percent from the field and held the Hawks to 37 percent shooting.
The Pacers led 67-52 at halftime, and the Hawks lost their composure early in the third quarter.
Smith was called for a technical and a flagrant foul two seconds apart, and Indiana led 73-52 after the free throws.
A dunk by Daniels on an assist from Murray increased Indiana’s lead to 79-54 with just over seven minutes left in the period.
The Pacers led 93-72 at the end of the quarter after leading by as many as 29 points.
Atlanta made a push to start the fourth quarter. A 3-pointer by Salim Stoudamire cut the Pacers’ lead to 95-81, and a lay-in by Smith minutes later trimmed Indiana’s edge to 95-85 with seven minutes left.
The Hawks again cut the Pacers’ lead to 10 points, 97-87, on a jumper by Johnson, but Indiana recovered with a 10-2 run to put the game out of reach.Notes: New Indiana Hoosiers basketball coach Tom Crean attended the game and got a standing ovation. ... Indiana C Jeff Foster was called for a technical foul for arguing a call 56 seconds into the game. Pacers coach Jim O’Brien got a technical with three minutes left in the opening period for arguing a call against Granger. ... The Pacers led 38-27 at the end of the first quarter after shooting 65 percent. ... The Hawks are 14-14 with G Mike Bibby as a starter.