INDIANAPOLIS- Frank Vogel finally made an adjustment to his starting lineup. Well, kind of. Yes, he made a change to the starting lineup, but it wasn’t until the Indiana Pacers were down by 10 points in the first quarter—about five games and 10 minutes too late, Frank.
Lucky for the Pacers, The Atlanta Hawks are an eight seed (the lowest seed in the Eastern Conference—crazy, Iknow) and Thursday night was one of the few times this series their true identity was too much to overcome. While Atlanta kept Indiana holding their breath, again, the Pacers kept their fans and their season holding on by a thread with an exhausting effort to push the series to a game seven Saturday night in Indianapolis.
Lance Stephenson had 21 points and nine rebounds in the Pacers 95-88 win adding to Paul George’s 24 points and eight rebounds. David West added 24 points, 11 rebounds and six assists to the Pacers must-win-victory. After Pero Antic missed the back end of two free throws, the Hawks and the Pacers were tied at 85 when West scored with 46 seconds to play to give the Pacers the go-ahead-lead.
The Pacers led by five at halftime and started the third quarter with Ian Mahinmi in place of Roy Hibbert. But an Atlanta run in the third that ended with a Jeff Teague jumper as time was running out put Atlanta up 67-64. Teague finished the game to the same tune he has played this entire series with 29 points. Staring the end of their season in the face the Pacers pushed back in the fourth quarter, trailing by as many as five, to take the lead with under two minutes left to play and they wouldn’t look back.
The frustration was evident. George Hill and Mike Scott, a thorn in the Pacers side in game five, squared up after a whistle at the end of the second quarter when Hill was elbowed and retaliated with a hand in the face of Scott, prompting a double technical and a heated moment. Hill answered back with a buzzer-beating three pointer at the end of the half, Scott finished the game with four points.
Luis Scola only played the last 10 seconds of the game despite a larger amount of minutes and prior success in the series. A demand from Pacers fans to include Scola in the starting lineup and moving West to the center position has been much of the conversation throughout the series. Chris Copeland played 18 minutes and finished the game with five points. Copeland was the first substitute in the game for Indiana after his six points late in Tuesday’s 10-point loss helped propel the Pacers back from a 30-point deficit. While he adds to the mix and makes life easier for Indiana, five points in 18 minutes isn’t necessarily worthy of Pacers fans acting like he is Michael Jordan’s next of kin.
The Pacers will play Atlanta Saturday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse while the Washington Wizards wait patiently and calmly for one of the two opponents in the next round. Throughout the season, the Pacers preached at nausea the importance of home court advantage so if there were to be a game seven in the Eastern Conference Finals it would be back home, with their home crowd and a less hostile environment.
It isn’t the Eastern Conference Finals, but the Pacers are facing elimination and against a lesser opponent. Saturday, They’ll have a chance to prove if their game seven at home theory” really makes that much of a difference.
If it doesn’t make a difference, we may be looking at an entirely different Pacers team next season.
Corey Elliot is a Senior Writer at the Indy Sports Report and a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association. He is recognized as an accredited member of the media by the Pacers and has full media access. Follow us on twitter @CoreyElliot and @IndySportsRep
Corey Elliot is a Beat Writer at the Indiana Sports Report and a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association. He is recognized as accredited member of the media by the Pacers and has full media access.
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