All week the Pacers insisted they were focused, dialed in and ready to go come playoff time. Behind a triple-double from Paul George, just the second in franchise playoff history, along with a strong showing from a handful of others, the Pacers outworked the Atlanta Hawks and took Game 1 in the best-of-seven series, 107-90, on Sunday afternoon at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
The Hawks went ahead 11-6 in the early moments, hitting five of their first six shots. The Pacers withstood that early charge and responded with a 17-4 run to go in front, 23-15. George Hill connected on all five of his attempts and had 13 points at the end of the first, as the Pacers, who shot 62 percent and had just two turnovers, led by eight.
Atlanta attacked the lane in the second and for the most part had their way inside the paint. The Pacersâ big men got out of position on many pick-and-rolls and couldnât slide over to help. This led to the Hawks getting far too many layups and chances at the rim, good for 20 points in the paint in the second quarter alone. On the positive side for the Pacers, they hit all 15 of their free-throw attempts, including 10 from Paul George, and led 58-50 at the break.
The Pacers extended their lead to 17 in the third period as they received contributions from a number of players. George made a living at the free-throw line, ultimately attempting a career-high 18 and nailing all but one. Roy Hibbert hit three shots and pulled down five rebounds and Lance Stephenson had six. Unlike the second quarter, the Pacers limited the Hawks’ inside game, keeping them to just four points in the paint. Entering the fourth, the Pacersâ advantage was 15.
Atlanta narrowed the gap in the final period, getting to within eight on a three-pointer from DeShawn Stevenson. Help came for the Pacers off the bench, as Tyler Hansbrough provided the boost and energy that the team needed to put the game away. As usual, his hustle was there and proved to be contagious.
A couple of minutes later, George secured his triple-double in a fitting way. He chalked up the rebound he needed by hustling to a long rebound and passing it to Lance Stephenson, who found David West who converted the bucket and got fouled in the process. That began a 9-2 run which put the Pacers over the century mark and an exclamation mark on the game. Game 1 belonged to Indiana in convincing fashion.
With 23 points, 11 rebounds and 12 assists, Paul George recorded his second career triple-double and just the second in Indianaâs NBA playoff history. Mark Jackson tallied the last one â 22 points, 14 rebounds and 13 assists back in 1998 â in a second round series against the New York Knicks.
Six Pacers â all five starters â finished in double figures. George Hill scored 18, Roy Hibbert had 16 points and eight rebounds and both Lance Stephenson and David West added 13.
Playing in his hometown, point guard Jeff Teague led the Hawks with 21 points and seven assists. Josh Smith had 15 and Al Horford scored 14, but just six of their combined 29 points came in the second half.
Atlanta shot 50 percent in the game. Entering the game, the Pacers hadnât won this season (0-7) when their opponent shot 50 percent or better.
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