Hawks fall short, face Game 7

Photo by AJC/ R. Brent Smith

Atlanta was outscored 31-21 in the final quarter and failed to clinch the series with a 95-88 defeat in Game 6. Indiana was led by David West’s team-high 24 points and will host the Hawks for Game 7 on Saturday at 8 pm ET.

The Pacers took away Atlanta’s speed advantage and played a half-court game. Indiana finished with zero fast break points but notched 40 points in the paint. Defensively, this slower speed favored Indiana and it held Atlanta to its worst shooting performance of the postseason at 35.8 % from the field and 9-of-33 (25.7 %) from beyond the arc.

Atlanta was coming off one of the best shooting performances in franchise history in Game 5 but could not find a rhythm offensively in Game 6. The Pacers were able to make the necessary adjustments and defend Atlanta’s lethal three-point range.

“We just talked about that throughout the season we were one of the best teams to guard the three,” said West after the game. “They were just too comfortable out there and they shot 22 threes in the first half tonight. I thought we made a more concerted effort to be in their face and step outside and get them out of their comfort zone. Our ability to guard and not allowing the long rebounds on the glass allowed us to play much better defense out on the three-point line.”

The Pacers led 57-48 with 5:33 left in the third before the Hawks took command of the game. Jeff Teague hit a pair of free-throws and a quick lay-up and then Mike Scott posterized Ian Mahinmi and cut the deficit to 59-54 with 3:21 left in the third. The tomahawk dunk energized the building and Atlanta closed out the quarter on a 15-5 run to take a 67-64 lead into the fourth quarter. Teague finished the quarter with back-to-back layups including an acrobatic runner in traffic on the buzzer to add to his game-high 29 points.

In the fourth quarter, Pacers backup Chris Copeland opened the quarter with a pair of free-throws and they continued forcing the Hawks into foul trouble. West in particular remained aggressive in the paint and picked up the slack for Roy Hibbert, who finished with zero points, one rebound and four personal fouls in his limited 12 minutes of action.

Paul Millsap picked up his fifth foul with three minutes remaining on West’s drive. West knocked down both free-throws and Hill took the next possession into the paint to give Indiana an 85-84 lead with 1:58 to play. West added four more points in the final minute and the Pacers ended the game on a 16-4 run.

“Before the game I told the team if worst comes to worst we just have to play ‘park’ basketball,” revealed West. “ We play all year for this. To get Game 7’s in our building. The energy will be incredible.”

The Hawks have already beaten the Pacers three times this year at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, including Game 1 and Game 5 of this series. In fact, the Hawks have followed up each loss this series with a double-digit win. Hawks head coach Mike Budenholzer assures that his team is up for the challenge.

“I think we have a lot of positive reference points as a team to look to,” said Budenholzer. “I think a Game 7 is something the team will relish.”

 

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