Told ya I was worried…Â And last night, our Indiana Pacers showed everyone why I am worried.
Despite falling behind by as many as 19 points, the Indiana Pacers worked their way back, narrowed the gap to five with less than two minutes to go, but once again the Atlanta Hawks provided the final punch. Atlanta evened the series at two games apiece with a 102-91 win Monday night at Philips Arena.
Indianaâs loss extends their drought in Atlanta to 13 games, dating back to 2006.
One would think that after their first series loss the other night, the Pacers would have shown us more drive and more determination.Â But I think by the time they realized it, it was already too late.
Just like in Game 3, the Pacers pulled ahead in the early going. Back-to-back offensive rebounds and dunks by Roy Hibbert and Tyler Hansbrough put the Pacers up seven, but the Hawks quickly erased the deficit and scored the final eight points of the first quarter for a one-point edge. Atlanta would never trail again.
The Hawks werenât done there, as they swelled their lead to double digits during a 22-3 run. Indiana left shooters open around the arc, particularly Kyle Korver and Anthony Tolliver off the bench, and Atlanta capitalized. They shot 55 percent from the floor in the first half, including a 7-of-8 clip from 3-point range. Josh Smith had 16 points to lead all scorers at the break â Atlanta led 57-40 â compared to just three points from Pacers swingman Paul George.
The Pacers got back in the game with their defense â blocked shots, charges and buckets in transition. They used a 15-1 run to get to within four points, as the Hawks went on a dry spell lasting 8:30. They could have tacked on a couple additional baskets if not for some misses around the rim. The Hawks only made three shots in the third and Josh Smith missed 6-of-12 foul shots. All nine of Indianaâs field goals in the period came in the paint and the Pacers entered the fourth behind by just seven.
Opportunities were there for the Pacers to go back ahead. They cut the Hawksâ lead to five points five different times, as late as the 1:46 mark. After George nailed a jumper, however, Al Horford responded with one as well and Smith, who played strong and aggressive all night, got an easy dunk in transition, which essentially put the game away with just over one minute remaining.
For the second straight game, Indiana was unable to overcome Atlantaâs big first half lead. The game swung in the Hawks favor in the second quarter, when the Pacers’ shots weren’t falling and they failed to contest well enough on the defensive end.
Forget a best-of-seven series. As the teams make their way back to Indy, it becomes a best-of-three series. The Pacers have a slight edge because they have the home court advantage. In the teamsâ eight meetings this season, including the regular season, the home team has won each time.
All five Indiana starters finished in double figures paced by 21 points and 12 rebounds from Paul George. David West had 15 and Roy Hibbert, who battled foul trouble, added 14.
Josh Smith led all scorers with 29 points, a new playoff career-high, along with 11 rebounds in 43 minutes. Kyle Korver had his best game of the series: 19 points off the bench on 7-of-11 shooting. Al Horford contributed 18 points.
After allowing 50 points in the paint in Game 3, the Pacers (+14) limited the Hawks to 28 on Monday.
The Hawks made 11-of-24 attempts from deep. Korver and Tolliver accounted for eight of them.
Atlanta attempted 38 free throws and connected on 25 of them. Indiana went 20-of-25 from the line.
The Hawks are 0-15 all-time in a best-of-seven series when down 0-2.
Brian Jessen is Editor-in-Chief and Founder of the Indiana Sports Report and is recognized as an accredited member of the media with full media access.
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