ATLANTA — The Indiana Pacers were making their final charge.
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. Swish.
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.”
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 defenders.”
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.
- Mojave King signs with G League Ignite after two seasons in NBL
- Kings guard De’Aaron Fox weds Recee Caldwell in Malibu
- Celtics star Jayson Tatum tops list of best small forwards in the NBA over LeBron James
- 76ers’ Tobias Harris marries fiancée Jasmine Winton at New York wedding
- Gilbert Arenas drops brutally honest take on LeBron James chasing stats
Main Page1 week ago
Under Armor set to release Curry 4 FloTro sneakers on August 5
Main Page7 days ago
Hornets’ PJ Washington and girlfriend Alisah Chanel expecting first child
Main Page3 days ago
Knicks, Lakers, Jazz nearly pulled trigger on Westbrook, Mitchell trade
Main Page1 day ago
A Complete History of the Dejounte Murray vs Paolo Banchero Beef