The Pacers expected a different Atlanta Hawks team in Game 2. They expected an opponent with a little edge to them along with a few adjustments to counter how the Pacers beat them in Game 1 on Sunday. After all, Pacers coach Frank Vogel said earlier this week that the biggest number of adjustments in a series come between Game 1 and 2.
Though the Hawks threatened at times, and there was a tight whistle throughout which affected the game, the Pacers went in front late in the first quarter and expanded their lead to as many as 24 in the fourth. With a 113-98 victory Wednesday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, the Pacers defended their home floor and went ahead 2-0 in the best-of-seven series.
From the opening tip, you could sense an added intensity from the visiting Hawks. They made a point to be aggressive, getting to the foul line less than two minutes into the game (after just 14 attempts in the first game) and attacking the rim. It paid off as Atlanta scored 12 of its first 17 points in the lane. A big shift came two minutes and 12 seconds into the contest when Hawks forward Josh Smith picked up his second foul and would deal with foul trouble the rest of the game. Later in the first, Lance Stephenson was called for a charge and landed hard on his right hip. He required assistance getting off the floor, but did return in the second half. To close the first stanza, the Pacers went on a 13-4 spurt and led by six, 25-19.
Paul George, who was honored as the NBAâs Most Improved Player on Tuesday morning, got in rhythm early. The Hawks began with Devin Harris on him, and later five other guys were thrown his way but it didnât matter. He connected on six of his first 10 shots and had 16 points by halfâs end. Both Roy Hibbert and Gerald Green threw down memorable dunks but Indianaâs lead, which felt like double figures, was actually just five.
Indianaâs bench, which has been a big question all season, came up big in the second period. Green and D.J. Augustin, who ran the point and slid George Hill to the 2 while Stephenson was out, each buried two 3-pointers. As a bunch that’s averaged just 26 points per game this season, the Pacers bench scored 24 in the second quarter alone and gave the Pacers a 59-50 lead at the break.
In the third, the Pacers kept pounding away at the Hawks. They shot 55% from the floor in the period and built some separation late. David West threw a pass the length of the floor to Green for a dunk to end the period and take a 12-point lead into the fourth.
During a five-minute span in the final period, the Pacers utilized a 15-1 run to blow the game open. Ahead by 23 with 3:10 remaining, Vogel was able to empty his bench and prevent further bruising to some of his guys.
It was imperative for the Pacers to take this one for three reasons: First, to maintain the home court advantage they worked so hard for during the regular season. Second, to head down to Atlanta, where theyâve lost 11-consecutive games, with a 2-0 lead. Thirdly, to remove any confidence the Hawks, a team that has looked disinterested in stretches throughout the series, may have had.
Indiana still needs improvement from their defense after nearly allowing Atlanta to shoot 50 percent for the second game in a row. But, taking a 2-zip lead in the series is a big deal. The last six times theyâve won the first two games in a best-of-seven series, theyâve advanced to the next round.
Paul George followed up his triple-double in Game 1 with 27 points, eight rebounds, four steals, three assists and zero turnovers in 39 minutes of action. George Hill scored 22 points on 7-of-12 shooting. Roy Hibbert and Gerald Green each tallied 15 points.
Devin Harris paced the Hawks with 17 points. Josh Smith battled foul trouble all night but still scored 16 points in less than 20 minutes. With 13 points and 10 rebounds, Al Horford recorded the gameâs only double-double.
Indiana outscored the Hawks in every quarter and by three points in each of the final three.
Despite the Hawksâ additional pressure and physical play, the Pacers turned the ball over just 10 times.
The Pacers improved to 24-4 this season when scoring 100 points.
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