Forward Lance Stephenson's layup had just cut Atlanta's lead to
six with three minutes to play, and the Hawks' ensuing possession
was falling apart.
Pressured in front of his bench, Atlanta point guard Jeff Teague
barely avoided stepping out of bounds and was forced to toss up a
contested 3-pointer on the run with the shot clock running out.
It's been that kind of stretch for the unraveling Pacers, and the
upstart Hawks gladly added to their woes with a 98-85 win Thursday
at raucous Philips Arena
Teague led all scorers with 22 points, and the Hawks hit 10
3-pointers in the second half to take a 2-1 series lead. Game 4 is
Saturday in Atlanta, where the Pacers have won only twice in their
last 11 games.
Atlanta guard Kyle Korver hit four 3-pointers, including a dagger
shot from the corner that put the Hawks up 12 with 1:40 left. Korver
finished with 20 points, and forward DeMarre Carroll added 18 for an
Atlanta team looking to become the sixth eight seed to win a
first-round playoff series.
"That was the best Hawks crowd I've ever been a part of," said
Korver. "It's one thing to cheer when your team makes a play. It's
another thing to cheer your team to make a play. I thought a couple
of times, when we were down, it really got us going. That was really
awesome tonight. We really felt the energy."
The Pacers, who are just 16-16 since the All-Star break, again got
subpar performances from their top playmakers. Forward Paul George
got in early foul trouble and didn't score in the first half. He
finished with 16 points and 14 rebounds, but scored just three
points in the fourth quarter.
"It was a tough time for our guys," said Indiana coach Frank Vogel.
"You've got to credit the Hawks. They played better basketball than
we did. "We've got to do a better job creating shots for ourselves.
We've got to share the basketball a little bit better. We have to
execute a little bit better. We've got to get the confidence to step
up and make the good looks."
Indiana center Roy Hibbert was a non-factor and had only four points
and two rebounds in 19 minutes of action. Hibbert missed several
shots wildly, failed to handle seemingly easy passes and sat out for
the majority of second half.
After a Hibbert turnover in the first half, cameras caught Indiana
team president Larry Bird burying his head in his hands. The Hawks
finished burying the Pacers in the second half.
"We've all tried to talk to him and keep him confident," Indiana
forward David West said of the struggling Hibbert. "It's hurting
him. He wants to help us and he wants to play well. He's hard on
himself. We've got to figure out a way to get him involved. It's a
long playoff series, so we're not going to panic. We came down here
to get one game, and that's what we're intending to do."
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Atlanta shot 30 percent in the first half and made just two of 16
3-pointers, allowing Indiana to stay close. The Hawks led 39-38 at
halftime, but got hot in the third quarter.
"Our group is confident when it comes to shooting," said Hawks
first-year coach Mike Budenholzer. "Even after the two of 16 in the
first half, they know we believe in it (the 3-point shot) and they
know it's part of how we want to play."
Carroll was the energizer in the third quarter. The fourth-year
forward out of Missouri hit a pair of 3-pointers and converted a
traditional three-point play in the third to help Atlanta's lead
grow to 10. He also took the charge that gave George his second foul
and sent him to the bench with 8:45 left in the first quarter.
Atlanta hit eight 3-pointers in the third quarter.
"Coach really relies on me and told me before the season that he
wants me to guard the best player every night," said Carroll.
"That's what I wanted to do. I'm trying to be one of the elite
Stephenson led the Pacers with 21 points and fueled Indiana's last
charge with big plays on both ends of the court. He had 12 points,
two assists and two steals in the fourth. But the Hawks always had
an answer. Sometimes it was a 3-pointer; other times it was by
getting to the free-throw line. Atlanta outscored the Pacers 30-16
at the foul line.
NOTES: Indiana outrebounded the Hawks 51-41. ... After reports
surfaced early this week that Pacers coach Frank Vogel was coaching
for his job in the playoffs, Indiana general manager Kevin Pritchard
took to his Twitter account Thursday to address the rumors. "Larry
Bird told me his sources say Frank Vogel's job is safe," Pritchard
tweeted. ... The Hawks are in the playoffs for the seventh
consecutive season, the longest streak in the Eastern Conference.
... Indiana F Luis Scola and Atlanta F Mike Scott were assessed
technical fouls midway through the second quarter, after a brief
standoff. ... Pacers F Lance Stephenson and G Evan Turner reportedly
were involved in an altercation at practice before Game 1 of the
series. Both players downplayed the incident and said there were no
hard feelings. ... Indiana C Roy Hibbert did not have a rebound in
the first half. He's averaged six rebounds in the first two games.
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