Valiant comeback falls short

Indiana loses guard Rodney Stuckey in first quarter, almost overcomes 17-point deficit in 102-92 defeat at Atlanta.

The visiting Indiana Pacers fell behind by 17 points early, lost guard Rodney Stuckey to a foot injury in the first quarter and still pushed the Atlanta Hawks to the final minute Saturday night.

Donald Sloan’s three free throws cut the Hawks’ deficit to three with 1:12 remaining but Indianapolis native Jeff Teague responded with a jumper and added two free throws in the final minute as Atlanta pulled away for a 102-92 victory.

Teague led all scorers with 25 points.

In each of their three games, the Pacers (1-2) have fallen behind by double digits in the first quarter. And a lineup already without the injured David West, George Hill and C.J. Watson became even more short-handed when Stuckey departed late in the opening quarter after playing six minutes.

The backup point guard, who has been playing limited minutes due to a left foot sprain, re-aggravated the injury and did not return.

But back the Pacers came as reserve forward Chris Copeland scored 21 points, including six 3-pointers, in his highest output since joining Indiana last season. He also had four rebounds and four assists.

Each of the starters contributed double-digit scoring as Sloan and center Roy Hibbert had 14, Luis Scola 12, and C.J. Miles and Solomon Hill 10 each. Hill’s point total was his best in two seasons as a pro. The forward had to play point guard to spell Sloan and had six assists, one shy of Sloan’s team high.

Hibbert and Scola had double-doubles, Hibbert with 12 rebounds and Scola 10. The Pacers outrebounded the Hawks 44-37, including 11-3 on the offensive end.

But the Hawks (1-1), playing in their home opener, staved off the comeback. In addition to Teague, center Al Horford scored 20 points and Paul Millsap added 13.

Atlanta shot 51 percent (35-of-69) while Indiana hit just 38 percent (31-of-81). The Pacers shot the same from 3-point range, making 12-of-32 beyond the arc.

The Pacers had 18 turnovers, giving them 53 in three games.

Indiana returns home to Bankers Life Fieldhouse to play the Milwaukee Bucks Tuesday.

Phillip B. Wilson can be found on Twitter (@pwilson24), Facebook and Google+.

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