The Indiana Pacers got back to what got them 49 regular season wins, a Central Division title and the third seed in the Eastern Conference: defense and rebounding. Those two elements were critical factors for the team Friday night when they held off a late charge by the Atlanta Hawks. Their 81-73 victory snapped a 13-game losing streak in Philips Arena, but more importantly, it wrapped up the series to propel them into the second round of the playoffs for the second year in a row.
Indiana had a 15-point cushion entering the fourth quarter, but the Hawks didnât give up without a fighting. They used a 21-7 run to cut the deficit to three points with 2:41 remaining. The Pacers got five straight stops and the Hawks didnât score again.
So just how did the Pacers take care of business?
They did it with stout defense, holding the Hawks to 33 percent shooting in both Games 5 and 6 after allowing them to shoot 47 percent through the first four games.
They did it by not letting the Hawks play their preferred style of play and get out on the break. The Hawks scored just four points in transition in the decisive Game 6.
And, they did it by having their two most experienced guys, David West and George Hill, come up big. Those two set the tone in the second half Friday night and they finished with 21 points each.
Atlantaâs first three buckets in the game came behind the arc. They wouldnât hit another one in the game, finishing 3-of-19 from long range.
Poor shooting plagued Atlanta all game long. They took a 17-13 lead with 3:04 remaining in the first quarter, but would make just two more shots the rest of the half. After a timeout, the Pacers limited their turnovers and went on a 14-5 spurt. Despite going 1-for-15 from the field in the second period, the Hawks buried seven free throws and trailed by eight at the break, 37-29.
Out of the locker room, the Pacers played with the urgency they said at shootaround they needed to wrap this series up. David West hit a couple of jumpers, then assisted on a George Hill 3-pointer. A goaltending call on Roy Hibbert ended a run of 17 missed shots by the Hawks. Indianaâs lead swelled to 19 early into the third. West and Hill played with a look like they were ready to end the series, and combined to score 22 of the Pacersâ 28 points in the quarter.
When the Hawks trimmed the Pacersâ lead to three, 76-73, the Pacers elevated their defensive play and didnât allow another point. Lance Stephenson, who rolled his ankle early in the fourth period but later returned, striped the ball from Jeff Teague and then contested a Kyle Korver miss on back-to-back possessions. Then, West and Paul George each got their hand on the next two shots fired up by the Hawks. Stephenson, West, and Roy Hibbert each hit 1-of-2 foul shots and the Pacers won by eight to take the series 4-2.
David West (21 points, eight rebounds, four blocks) and George Hill (21 points, seven rebounds) guided the Pacers to victory. With 17 points and 11 rebounds, Roy Hibbert recorded his first double-double this postseason. Lance Stephenson grabbed 11 rebounds, one shy of his career-high set (12) set in Game 5. He also contributed eight points and six assists.
Paul George was limited offensively, going 2-of-10 from the floor and not hitting a shot in the second half. He only had four points but he defended Josh Smith most of the way, pulled in seven rebounds, and had seven dimes.
Five Atlanta players finished in double figures, led by 15 from Al Horford. Josh Smith had 14 points and nine rebounds. The backcourt of Devin Harris and Jeff Teague chipped in 14 and 10, respectively. Kyle Korver was 0-for-7 from deep, but he totaled 12 points â six coming from the foul line.
Again, the Pacers owned the paint. They outscored the Hawks 42-30 and were +18 on the glass.
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