The Indiana Pacers dominated both ends of the floor in their 106-83 win over the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday night and now stand just one win shy of a second-straight trip to the Eastern Conference semifinals.
Rarely has home-court advantage been so evident in a playoff series. The Hawks and Pacers each held serve on their home floor in the first four games of the series, with all four contests being decided by double-digits.
But Atlanta looked to reverse that trend, grabbing a 22-21 lead after the first quarter thanks to eight Indiana turnovers in the period.
There were still some early signs, though, that the Pacers had no interest in losing in front of their home fans. Roy Hibbert and David West bullied the Hawks' frontcourt at every opportunity with Paul George creating something out of nothing on the rare occasions that Indiana's offensive sets broke down.
The Pacers raced out to 29 points in the second quarter and carried a 50-43 lead into intermission.
And that margin was a bit deceptive. Indiana converted 54.3 percent of its field goals in the first half, while limiting Atlanta shooters to just a 37.5 success rate.
The Pacers didn't entirely free themselves of their turnover woes, racking up 16 of them before the final buzzer sounded.
But thanks to a strong shooting night (50.7 percent from the field), a suffocating defensive effort (holding Atlanta to just 33.3 percent shooting) and a commanding edge on the glass (51-28), the Pacers earned their third comfortable victory of the series.
Jeff Teague, Hawks: Perhaps limited by a hard tumble into the stanchion during the first quarter or just an all-around tenacious defensive effort by the Pacers, Teague struggled mightily on the offensive end.
He shot just 3-of-16 in the game en route to a very quiet seven points. Indiana closed off his driving lanes, leaving Teague helplessly firing away from outside the paint. When he did find his away around George Hill, he was promptly greeted with a horde of help defenders.
His inability to consistently penetrate into the heart of the defense made him largely a non-factor as a playmaker (five assists in 34 minutes), although he didn't let his frustrations boil over into poor decisions as he turned the ball over just once.
George Hill, Pacers: Hill has had bigger scoring nights than this (15 points), but that didn't stop him from making a positive impact in the game.
He found his shots within the flow of the offense (5-of-10), took care of the basketball (one turnover in 35 minutes) and aggressively attacked off the dribble before finding open teammates (10 assists). His perimeter stroke was far from its best (1-of-5 from deep), but the quality of his looks demanded defensive attention and kept the floor well spaced.
Defensively he struggled at times to keep pace with the speedy Teague but held the Atlanta point guard in check with the help of the big bodies behind him.
Devin Harris, Hawks: Harris' handles and quickness gave Lance Stephenson some problems, but he wasn't always able to maximize his offensive opportunities.
He's a bit of a streaky shooter, and his shots just weren't falling (13 points, 3-of-9). Credit him for staying on the attack in spite of this, as he earned eight free-throw attempts and converted seven of them.
But he got himself out of position at times when the officials held their whistles, and his frenetic tempo produced, at best, mixed results.
With Teague and Smith struggling, Atlanta needed the versatile Harris to make more of an impact offensively. But he's far more dangerous as a supportive scorer than when he's tasked with taking on a heavy load.
Defensively he was hard to notice, but guarding the hustler Stephenson had a lot to do with that.
Lance Stephenson, Pacers: Stephenson is rarely one to make his presence felt in the box score.
That said, his 12 rebounds in 38 minutes certainly jump off the page. He was active all night long, showing no ill effects of chasing Harris around the court.
Offensively his results were about what you'd expect (eight points), but he rarely forced the issue (3-of-7). He did a serviceable job of setting up his teammates (four assists) but did take a few chances that he'd love to have back (three turnovers).
He was exposed at times out of the pick-and-roll by Harris, but he's not typically tasked with guarding a point guard by trade.
Josh Smith, Hawks: For a moment, it looked like this could be one of those magical nights for J-Smoove.
But that fleeting glance, a successful three from the wing, may have proven to be his downfall.
This was nothing like the hyper-aggressive Smith that carved up Indiana's defense to the tune of 29 points, 11 rebounds and four assists in Game 4. Rather this was the hesitant, unsure version who far too often settled for outside shots (14 points, 5-of-16 from the field).
There were points to be on the interior, but they weren't going to come without a fight. Smith displayed that toughness with a grown man's move on the lower block that sent a flopping Jeff Pendergraph falling to the floor while Smith dropped in a soft, lefty hook.
But when Indiana's biggest, baddest bruisers were on the floor, Smith looked disinterested in venturing anywhere near the basket in half-court sets.
He tallied four steals and a block, but battled foul trouble throughout and was held to just five boards in 25-plus minutes.
Paul George, Pacers: In a battle of the Swiss Army knives, George proved to be the far more lethal weapon at the small forward spot.
Simply put, there wasn't a role that the first-time All-Star had trouble filling.
When the Pacers needed a defensive stopper on the perimeter, George was there using his next-level athleticism and lanky 6'8" frame. He was an effective creator (five assists, one turnover) and potent scorer (21 points, 7-of-8), doing damage both off dribble drives and perimeter looks (2-of-2 from three). And, like Stephenson, committed to a team-wide effort to control the glass snaring 10 rebounds in his 34 minutes.
Indiana punished Atlanta in the paint, but the perimeter play of George brought an added dimension to its attack.
Defensively he used his size to bother Kyle Korver's shots, his physicality to harass Smith and his athleticism when helping on Teague and Harris.
Al Horford, Hawks: Horford's at his best when he initiates his offense from the inside-out.
His shooting touch from the mid-range is a viable weapon, but too often became his only option offensively in this game. To make matters worse, it wasn't all that effective as he misfired on seven of his 10 attempts from outside of the paint.
When Horford planted himself near the basket, he was at least somewhat effective. He showed solid footwork and a strong array of post moves, converting two of his four looks in the paint en route to his 14 points.
Defensively he was often left on an island, forced to leave his man to slow Indiana's drives. But when he found himself in one-on-one post challenges, he couldn't match the physicality of his counterparts.
He led the Hawks with nine rebounds, but even that left something to be desired considering he logged a game-high 39 minutes.
David West, Pacers: Indiana's game-changing second-quarter performance started and stopped with the play of the former All-Star West.
With George and Hibbert both watching from the sideline, West relished in his run as the focal point of the offense pouring in a large chunk of his game-high 24 points.
His mid-range jumper was clearly clicking, and he showed the offensive poise to put the ball on the floor when Atlanta's defenders strayed too far from the basket. When he received touches on the post, he was decisive and productive with his moves. He shot 6-of-7 in the period and settled into a supportive role during the other three quarters.
He and Hibbert controlled the interior on both ends of the floor, deterring drives, challenging shots and exerting their physical brand of basketball defensively.
It wasn't exactly a perfect night as he managed just five rebounds in 35 minutes and turned the ball over three times. But his second-quarter run gave Atlanta something else to account for over the final 24 minutes.
Johan Petro, Hawks: Making his third-straight start of the series, Petro was tasked with slowing Indiana's towering interior presence.
Given his lack of offensive skill, there wasn't much else that Larry Drew expected to see.
Petro chipped in with five points, the beneficiary of timely feeds from penetrating perimeter players.
But again, his performance was never meant to be graded on of the offensive end.
He struggled to hold his ground against Hibbert and looked lost when the big man pulled him away from the basket. Throw in the fact that he was a non-factor on the glass (two rebounds in 18 minutes) and this was nothing short of a disappointing showing.
Roy Hibbert, Pacers: Hibbert's followed an efficient pattern throughout the contest: post isolations, strong moves to the basket and a seemingly endless trip to the free-throw line.
Atlanta looked to take him out of the equation and closed on him whenever he found touches. This led to him straying a little farther from the basket than he needed to at times, but he's not a liability outside of the paint.
When that pattern didn't hold true and Atlanta defenders guarded him without fouling, though, he wasn't a strong offensive option. He poured in 18 points on the night, but 12 of them came at the free-throw line.
He was an imposing force on the defensive end, where his strength and physicality clearly sapped some of Atlanta's aggressiveness.
Kyle Korver, Hawks: Korver's usually an easy guy to grade. Look at his points (10 tonight), look at his three-point success (1-of-3) and you often have a good idea of the effect he made on the floor.
But this game was a little bit different.
For one, he wasn't targeted often by his teammates attempting just five field goals in 32-plus minutes. Korver never really had the chance to figure out if he was going to be hot or not.
But beyond the box score, he made his presence felt. He battled defensively and was one of the few Hawks players that looked like he was hustling when he stepped foot on the floor.
Granted he's not a strong defender, and his five personal fouls highlight that.
But he deserves credit for not backing down from the aggressive nature of the Pacers, something that can't be said about many of his teammates.
D.J. Augustin, Pacers: Although not in the same perimeter class as Korver, Augustin fills a similar role for the Pacers.
With a host of capable distributors on the roster, particularly the steady hand of George, Augustin wasn't doing a lot of orchestrating during his 25-minute run.
Rather he was asked to be a long-range threat, where he looked about average (11 points, 3-of-9 from three).
He competed on the defensive end, but the rest of his stat line was easy to overlook: two dimes and two boards.
Hawks: Outside of Drew's late-game bench clearing, Ivan Johnson and Anthony Tolliver were the only other Hawks players to see meaningful minutes.
The physicality of the contest figured to play well to Johnson's style, and it did to a certain extent. He scored nine points on the night, converting 7-of-8 of his foul shots.
Tolliver saw 17 minutes of action, connecting on 1-of-2 attempts from long range.
The pair combined for just three rebounds.
Pacers: Tyler Hansbrough, Ian Mahinmi and Jeff Pendergraph helped carry over the energetic play to the second team, bringing both positive and negative results along the way.
The trio combined for eight boards and seven points in 31 minutes, but also amassed 10 total personal fouls.
With the starters performing so well, though, Vogel didn't need to rely on his reserves until the game was well in hand.