Pacers Oust Hawks
Atlanta — George Hill and David West each scored 21 points and the Indiana Pacers withstood a furious Atlanta comeback in the fourth quarter, beating the Hawks 81-73 last night to close out the opening-round playoff series four games to two.
The home team had won every game until the Hawks returned to Philips Arena and set a franchise record with just nine points in the second quarter on 1-of-15 shooting. The defense broke down in the third, allowing Hill and West to combine for 22 points, and the Pacers built a 65-50 lead going to the fourth.
The Hawks showed some heart, slicing it to 76-73 on Al Horford’s dunk with 2:13 remaining.
But the comeback fizzled there, and the Pacers advanced to face New York.
The Hawks went through an absolutely brutal stretch from early in the second quarter to nearly midway through the third, in which they did not actually put the ball in the hoop.
In the equivalent of more than a quarter — 15:43 to be exact — Atlanta went 1 of 21 from the field, the only basket awarded to Devin Harris on a goaltending call against Roy Hibbert.
At a time when the Hawks needed one of their best performances of the season, they produced one of their worst.
Now, they face an uncertain future. Atlanta has only three players who are definitely under contract for next season — Horford is the only starter in the group — and it seems likely this will be a much different team next season. Longtime stalwart Josh Smith, an Atlanta native who has played for the team eight season, is among those heading into free agency and seems unlikely to return.
If so, Smith missed his final shot in a Hawks uniform.
That was fitting on a night when Atlanta made only 26 of 78 (33 percent). Horford led with 15 points, while Smith and Harris finished with 14.
Indiana bullied the Hawks much of the night, overcoming their own poor shooting (32 of 76) by bullying Atlanta in the lane. The Pacers finished with a staggering 53-35 lead on the boards.
Hibbert added 17 points and 11 rebounds. Lance Stephenson also had 11 rebounds.
The Hawks couldn’t play much worse than they did in the second quarter. They showed little energy. They put up some truly awful shots. They missed even when they got a decent look.
Kyle Korver made the Hawks’ only basket of the period on a jumper with 10:35 left. After that, they missed their last 13 shots before heading to the locker room to a round of boos from the home crowd.
If not for Indiana having their own offensive issues — the Pacers made only 36.6 percent (15 of 41) — the game would’ve been a blowout. As it was, the Hawks trailed just 37-29.
Perhaps the most telling sequence for both teams came late in the second. Jeff Teague fumbled away the ball out near the top of the key without being challenged. Indiana’s D.J. Augustin took off the other way on an apparent layup, but only to throw up a wild shot that struck the bottom of the backboard. The Hawks followed up with such a pathetic offensive set that 7-footer Johan Petro wound up shooting a 3-pointer just ahead of the shot clocked.
So did just about everything else the Hawks put up in the first half.
Atlanta’s offensive woes shifted to the defensive end in the third quarter. The Hawks continually got lost on switches, at one point leaving Hill totally alone on a 3-pointer. He knocked down the shot and Harris looked around, his arms in the air wondering what was happening to his team.
To their credit, the Hawks showed some heart in their final quarter of the season.
But they expended so much energy wiping out a deficit that had been as high as 19 points, there was nothing left at the end. Horford’s rim-hanging dunk was the last hurrah. The Hawks didn’t score again.
Notes: The Pacers packed as though they might be away from home for up to six days. Coach Frank Vogel said there was nothing psychological about the decision. “It’s practical,” he said before Game 6. ... Atlanta G Jeff Teague has an awful finish to the series, going 3 of 16 in Game 5 and 3 of 12 in the deciding contest. ... Hawks F Ivan Johnson picked up a technical for the second game in a row. Indiana’s Jeff Pendergraph also picked up a T.