Dennis Schroder converted three driving scores in the final two minutes as the Hawks beat the Pacers 107-102 on Wednesday night at Philips Arena.
But, in Schroder’s view, those plays weren’t why the Hawks won.
Instead, the Hawks turned back the Pacers with energetic and spirited defense. And Schroder, whose defense has been lackluster for much of the season, was a big part of that effort.
After the Lakers handed the Hawks their fourth straight loss on Monday, Schroder said he was determined to lead the defensive charge against the Pacers.
“That’s the reason why I wanted to put the team on my back, and I’ve got to start it with defense,” Schroder said. “I think everybody (saw) it and everybody played with me. I think that was one of our best games defensively. We did a great job. That’s the reason we got the win.”
Schroder collected five of his team’s 11 steals. He aggressively defended pick-and-rolls and closed out hard on shooters, two areas in which he’s been especially deficient this season. Schroder’s Pacers counterpart, Cory Joseph, was held scoreless with three turnovers in 31 minutes.
“His defense, his effort, getting everybody involved, his leadership — super positive for Dennis tonight,” Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer said.
After the Pacers trimmed a 23-point deficit to four with 1:59 to play, Schroder scored the next seven points for the Hawks.
Schroder’s layup with 1:40 left put the Hawks ahead 101-95. After Pacers guard Lance Stephenson scored, Schroder missed a 3-pointer with eight seconds on the shot clock and 1:15 to go in the game.
The Pacers cut the lead to 101-99 with 1:02 to play. Schroder responded with another driving score and, after a Pacers turnover, made another layup in traffic for a 105-99 lead with 26 seconds left. Schroder’s free throw pushed the lead to 106-99 with 15.4 seconds to go.
After failing to score in the first half Schroder finished with 14 points, including nine in the final period.
“I tried to be aggressive,” Schroder said. “I thought I didn’t do anything in the first half so I just had to be aggressive there and get my team going in the fourth quarter and attacking. That’s what I did. (Dewayne) Dedmon and John (Collins), they set great screens so I could attack.”