Getting pushed against a wall often brings out the best in teams, and thanks to a big night from Paul George and Luis Scola, the Indiana Pacers are tied at 1-1 with the Atlanta Hawks in their first round NBA Playoffs series following a 101-85 win, suggesting to everyone that it was too soon to give up on them.
What was it that brought the Pacers to life? Maybe we’ll never know. They were struggling in the first half to contain the Hawks or get anything consistent going offensively. But then came Luis Scola off the bench, and looked like the power forward some used to describe as the most difficult player to defend in the NBA. He hit four consecutive field goals, finished with 20 points and helped spark the Pacers into a huge third quarter that finished off the game.
Suddenly the Hawks, via Jeff Teague who like the rest of his teammates didn’t really play in the fourth quarter, couldn’t get a basket. The Pacers moved well on defense, reacted quickly to any screen or attempt to enter the lane and looked like the team that terrorized the Eastern conference through the first few months of the season. Atlanta shot only 39.2% from the field and 34.5% from beyond the arc, looking completely shell shocked in the third quarter, something they didn’t recover from.
The Pacers didn’t play perfectly, but thanks to their defense they had the opportunity to hasten things up on offense. Paul George led the team with 27 points, 10 rebounds, 6 assists and 4 steals, making a few huge plays that brought the arena to life. Suddenly those leaving the game early a few days earlier were forgotten, and the embarrassment of having tickets sold for $9 on StubHub was old news.
It’s hard to say the bench saved the Pacers; aside from Scola and C.J. Watson it wasn’t a very impressive performance from anyone. Ian Manhimi got two blocks in, but that was it. The Pacers didn’t have a huge night from everybody, but got enough from George, Scola and George Hill, suddenly coming back to life with 15 points, to cruise in the third quarter and have plenty of garbage time in the fourth to gloat about the win.
Roy Hibbert is still an issue. His defense comes and goes, but on offense he doesn’t exist. He finished with six points, four of the coming from the line. He was only 1-of-7 from the field, but the Hawks doing so badly with their 3-point shooting meant Hibbert wasn’t going to be chasing Antic and others around all day, leaving the area he feels most comfortable in. Maybe a win makes everything better all of a sudden, but the Pacers need a better version of him.
The Hawks are still in good shape. Not losing both games in Indiana was the best they could have hoped for before the series began. Now they know they’ve awaken the beast, but know this isn’t a Pacers team that runs rampant and wild offensively. The Hawks need to figure out a way to do more than just let Teague do everything. He and Paul Millsap need some help, but if the best the Hawks have to offer is simply hope for a better shooting day from Korver and the rest, this series won’t remain interesting for long.