Atlanta Hawks vs. Indiana Pacers: Game 6 Score, Highlights and Analysis

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Atlanta Hawks vs. Indiana Pacers: Game 6 Score, Highlights and Analysis

Style points are thrown out the window when the postseason rolls around.

If Friday night's Game 6 between the Indiana Pacers and Atlanta Hawks was any indication, though, they weren't the only points lost en route to Philips Arena.

After the home team had claimed double-digit wins in the first five games of this series, it was the visiting Pacers that handed the host Hawks an 81-73 defeat.

George Hill and David West led all scorers with 21 points each, and Roy Hibbert chipped in with 17 points, 11 rebounds and a pair of blocks. Indiana shook off a 42.1-percent showing from the field (just 20.0 percent from three) and 15 turnovers thanks to a stifling defense that held Atlanta to just a 33.3 field-goal percentage (15.8 percent from deep) and a plus-18 margin on the glass (53-35).

Al Horford scored a team-high 15 points in the loss, and Josh Smith added 14 points and nine rebounds.

With the win, Indiana moves on the Eastern Conference Semifinals for the second time in as many seasons. With the loss, Atlanta fans are left to wonder if that was their last look at the now free-agent Smith.

The Pacers leaned heavily on their size and strength advantages in the first quarter, largely on the shoulders of their 7'2", 280-pound center, Roy Hibbert. He poured in eight points and snared five boards in the period, hitting on 4-of-6 from the field.

But Indiana got a little loose with the basketball, turning it over and fueling some fast-break chances for Atlanta. With David West misfiring on his first five field-goal attempts and Paul George converting just once in six tries, the Pacers' problems were only compounded.

But while Atlanta took better care of the basketball, it struggled to do anything with it. Josh Smith, Al Horford and Jeff Teague hit just four of their first 16 shots and Atlanta's offense struggled to find any rhythm.

Indiana shined defensively, stymieing Atlanta in transition and half-court chances. When the Hawks found rare offensive opportunities, they weren't ready to convert.

Midway through the second quarter, Smith thought he spotted a trailing Kyle Korver at the three-point line, but sent his no-look pass sailing into the stands. On the ensuing offensive trip, Smith would've had an uncontested dunk had he not fumbled a Horford feed out of bounds.

Call it good defense or horrendous offense—really, it was a combination of the two. Indiana's rotations were crisp, strengthened by the hulking Hibbert backing his teammates up on their interior.

But defense only played so much of a factor in Atlanta's offensive woes in the first half. The Hawks closed the second quarter with 14 consecutive missed field goals, including an attempted three from Smith that sparked a chorus of boos from the hometown crowd.

Of course, those boos may well have come from the realization of what these fans had doled out their hard-earned cash to watch. The two teams combined for just 25 points in the second quarter, with Atlanta managing only nine in 12 minutes.

A 36.6 field-goal percentage over two quarters of basketball could be crippling, but for Indiana it meant a 37-29 lead thanks to Atlanta's atrocious 23.7-percent conversion rate.

Devin Harris snapped Atlanta's scoring slide with a pair of free throws on its first possession of the third quarter, then ended its field goal drought with a driving layup at the 9:39 mark. But the Hawks failed to score again until a Horford jumper with 6:52 left in the quarter, sandwiched around an 8-0 Pacers run on the strength of aggressive drives by Hibbert.

Just seeing the ball go in, though, may have made a difference for the Hawks. Horford buried another jumper on the next trip, and Smith dropped in a pair of hook shots on two of Atlanta's next three trips.

But right when their offense started to wake up, the Hawks' defense looked drowsy. George Hill drove past a trio of Atlanta defenders for an uncontested layup, then buried a wide-open three on the next trip as the Hawks pointed fingers at each other for the missed rotation.

Atlanta focused its efforts on keeping Hibbert and George out of the equation in the third quarter, but Indiana just turned elsewhere to find its offense. Hill had 12 points in the period, and West added 10 on 4-of-4 shooting from the field to help the Pacers build a 65-50 lead heading into the fourth.

Perhaps finally capturing the severity of a loss, the Hawks showed signs of life in the final quarter. Harris got things started with a jumper, and Horford followed his lead on the next trip.

The Atlanta faithful quickly joined the party, and suddenly it was Indiana searching for answers on both ends of the floor. Horford's jumper sparked a 16-4 burst, punctuated by his driving jam over the larger Hibbert. The Pacers saw a 17-point lead sliced to four in less than seven minutes.

Hibbert responded with a tip-in off a Hill miss, but Smith answered with a jumper on the other end. After Hill split a pair of free throws to give Indiana a 76-71 lead with 2:55 left in regulation, Horford cut the lead to three on a thunderous throwdown.

But this just may not have been Atlanta's night.

A disjointed Indiana possession on its next trip resulted in the ball falling into West's hands for a point-blank layup as the shot-clock expired. Lance Stephenson swiped the ball away from Teague on the ensuing possession, and Korver air-balled a forced jumper the next time down. The Hawks would not score another point after Horford's slam.

 

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Credit Indiana's defense, Hibbert and West in particular, for limiting Horford's activity. But early on, the Hawks settled far too often for perimeter jumpers, racking up multiple possessions without even a look inside to their talented post scorer:

When Indiana went away from its big man, so, too, went the rest of its offense. George and West tried to do most of the heavy lifting, but nothing was falling for either club:

And the players on the floor weren't the only ones struggling. The officials had a rough start, too:

A bit of human error is too be expected, and there's only so many game-slowing trips to the replay monitor that basketball fans can stomach. However, there was at least one player on the floor that wanted the refs to get the call right:

But if a head-shot was to be blamed for George's shooting struggles, what was Smith's excuse for his frigid start:

With Zaza Pachulia (Achilles) and Louis Williams (ACL) both lost for the year, clearly the Hawks were going to need more out of Smith. They were also going to need a horde of contributions from the rest of the roster, though, and Atlanta failed to muster the fight needed to crawl out of a 3-2 hole:

With no wins to show for their last 13 trips to Philips Arena, clearly the Pacers enjoyed exorcising some demons and punching their second-round ticket. But there was no question about who the biggest winner was on this night:

The Eastern Conference has seen its fair share of horrific offensive performances in this postseason. But Atlanta's problems were hard to watch:

And it wasn't too long before those problems extended to the defensive end:

Despite the Pacers' gracious turnover offerings, the Hawks struggled to take flight:

Well, at least until a soaring Horford threatened to launch Hibbert into Mozgov territory:

Atlanta had some emotions to sort out with the loss, but this misery was not going to breed any company:

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