Tonight, the Atlanta Hawks looked like a good team going against an opponent whose nearly flawless and fundamental play wouldn't allow a hot shooting Hawks team back into the game. The Pacers took a 2-0 series lead as they soundly defeated a Hawks team 113-98 in a game which wasn't even as close as the final score indicates.
The fall out of the game happened fairly quickly for the Hawks.
Indiana closed the first quarter on a 16-4 run to take nine-point lead into the second, pending a Roy Hibbert (seven points, two assists, two rebounds in first quarter) buzzer-beater which was given video review. The 7'2" center nailed a triple.
It was that kind of night for Indiana. The Pacers would go on to play even more dominantly as the bench erupted int the second quarter, helping them build an 11-point lead before a late bucket by the Hawks to make it nine at the half.
The shot was ruled as good, and the tone set for a blowout of the sixth-seeded Hawks. Atlanta found Indiana's suffocating defense to be enough, committing five first-quarter turnovers which led to three Pacers' points.
Overall, the Pacers had too much energy and their defense was intense enough to fend off Atlanta, despite a well-played game by the Hawks. The Pacers could have built a 20-point lead if they had managed to find Korver quicker in transition.
The fact that Korver missed a few of those looks is unusual for the sharpshooter actually.
The Pacers would continue to out hustle the Hawks while shooting 47 percent from the floor. Frank Vogel has taken a squad of rather average talented offensive players and led them to an above average offense.
Vogel's Pacers took a 2-0 series lead because of their depth and balance, and their bench's play tonight was instrumental in the Pacers victory.
Paul George told NBA TV that the bench is "just as important as the starting five."
These game grades reflect the Most Improved Player's praise of his teammates. He set a new playoff career high with 27 points, and the Pacers are showing they must be mentioned in the same breath as the New York Knicks as true threats to the Miami Heat.
Following an early Atlanta Hawks' turnover, Devin Harris erased two D.J. Augustin points with a spectacular blocked shot. Atlanta started the second quarter where it left off the first, with those two early turnovers, but the Pacers were struggling to capitalize on the Hawks' miscues, which were just that—unforced errors.
Lance Stephenson took a hard fall on a collision with Ivan Johnson of the Hawks, and when Stephenson checked out the Pacers were up just one point. Gerald Green led a charge by the Pacers' bench to build a lead, while George remained on the court to help the second unit.
Paul George was aggressive in the second quarter against Josh Smith, who'd picked up two early fouls. Trying to avoid that third foul, George found himself able to challenge Smith at the rim, and his bucket put the Pacers back up eight points before Devin Harris bombed a triple to pull the Hawks within five.
Harris' play off the bench was huge, but unsurprising; Harris had been a starter for most of his career prior to assuming a role as a backup to Jeff Teague. Teague and Harris started together tonight, and had 18 points by the nine-minute mark of the second quarter as the Hawks hit their first four shots in the period and kept it close.
(See Grades Next Slide)
The Indiana Pacers lead stretched to 17 on a George Hill three early in the fourth quarter; his 18th point of the game.
A 7-0 run in the mid-fourth pushed an Altanta Hawk timeout, and it was looking like Hill's three had a dagger-like effect on the morale of Larry Drew's huddle.
The Hawks had fought valiantly, but just couldn't defeat a team playing a fundamentally sound game. At the 5:58 timeout, the Pacers led 102-85 and the team is 23-4 this season when scoring at least 100 points.
So, the Hawks' fate was written on the wall.
The Hawks had fought valiantly, but just couldn't defeat a team playing a fundamentally sound game. At the 5:58 timeout, the Pacers led 102-85 and the team is 23-4 this season when scoring at least 100 points. So, the Hawks' fate was written on the wall.
The Pacers' backcourt quartet of guards (George, Hill, Stephenson and sixth man Gerald Green) scored 68 of the Pacers 113 points, and the Hawks' top four backcourt players (Jeff Teague, Korver, Harris and sixth man DeShawn Stevenson) combined for 45 points.
That 23-point disparity between the rotations was all that was necessary for the Pacers to delve deep into their bench and push this one out of control.
Lance Stephenson began the second half with a noticeable limp, but he hit a three to extend the Pacers lead to 14. They had made their first four second-half field goals, and Atlanta's defense was reeling from missing their best defender in Josh Smith.
Larry Drew seemingly had his hand forced to get his best player back in the game, and the pace of the game was shaping up favorably without Smith creating transition opportunities for the Hawks.
Hawks Backcourt: B -
Teague, B- ; Harris, B; Stevenson, C-; Korver, B+
Pacers Backcourt: A
Hill, B+, Stephenson, B; George, A+; Green, B+
Tonight, the Atlanta Hawks looked like a good team going against an opponent whose nearly flawless and fundamental play wouldn't allow a hot-shooting Hawks team back into the game.
The Pacers closed the first quarter on a 16-4 run to take nine-point lead into the second, pending a Roy Hibbert (seven points, two assists, two rebounds in first quarter) buzzer-beater which was given video review. The 7'2" center nailed a triple.
Hibbert finished with 15 points, nine rebounds and three blocks, and he hit all five of his free throws. He may not be the type of talent that typically is thought of when one hears "max contract," but in a center-weak era, he's good enough to dominate the likes of the Atlanta Hawks.
Al Horford is an All-Star, but his usage rate never seems high enough. He hit 5-of-11 from the floor for 13 quiet points in 38 minutes.
When a player seems like he's not making a big impact, he usually isn't, and Horford's days of making All-Star teams may not be as long given the dominant frontcourt players expected to enter the league over the next two seasons.
Horford also had 10 boards and made some nice passes (five assists), but the Hawks aren't getting out of the second round with a 6'9" center who is their best player.
Josh Smith picks up fourth foul at the 10:55 mark of the quarter and the Hawks are down by 11 at that juncture. He'd had an ineffective first half due to foul trouble, and he played just 20 minutes on the evening.
The Hawks can't compete with their best frontcourt player in such foul trouble, and they were actually plus-5 with Smith on the court.
The 6'10" combo forward shot an ultra efficient 7-of-10 from the floor and had 16 points and six boards. It wasn't a bad game, it just wasn't a full one for the free agent-to-be.
David West had an equally frustrating night, getting just four shots from the floor and managing only seven points and one rebound, but the Pacers 4-man wasn't looking for his shot much with the backcourt players dominating the ball so often.
Jeff Pendergraph played 15 effective minutes and hit 4-of-6 from the floor, providing Vogel with a versatile forward/center who can help when the Pacers bigs get in foul trouble or need rest. Hibbert is not a 40-minute-per-game kind of guy. Pendergraph's hustle off the bench is always a plus for Indiana.
Atlanta attempts to use Ivan Johnson in the same role, but Pendergraph showed tonight that he outclasses the Hawks forward. The Hawks were negative-6 with Johnson on the court.
Tyler Hansbrough played 23 ineffective minutes, but had a few ovation-worthy hustle plays.
Pacers Frontcourt: B
West, D; Hibbert, B+; Pendergraph, B+; Mahinmi, I; Hansbrough, C
Hawks Frontcourt: B
Smith, C; Horford, B+; Ivan Johnson, D
The Pacers bench played a superb game. They scored 38 points and had outscored the Hawks bench 24-4 by halftime. Atlanta's bench shot 50 percent from the floor, yet still allowed Indiana to pull away. That's mainly because Atlanta's bench picked up right where the starters left off.
The Hawks were shooting 68 percent from the floor at the five-minute mark of the second period, yet found themselves still down five. What could they do to beat Vogel's squad that they hadn't already tried?
D.J. Augustin picked up the slack left by Stephenson's injury, too. Back-to-back threes by the 5'10" point guard accelerated Indiana's role in this one and helped them build their first double-digit lead late in the second quarter before heading into the half with a nine-point lead.
How big was Indiana's bench in this one? It outscored the Hawks 24-4 in the first half. The bench was so excited they couldn't hold for the last shot, which upset Frank Vogel.
But the excitement of having built a nine-point lead was enough for the Pacers, and Paul George nearly nailed a half-courter to push the lead back into double digits. It would reach that in the second half again.
Indiana Bench: A
Atlanta Bench: C -