For once, the Indiana Pacers didn’t fall apart heading into Atlanta. The had too many problems on offense and couldn’t make a late fourth quarter surge enough to save them, giving the Pacers game 6 and the series, while George Hill provided the spark on both ends of the floor thanks to his amazing defense and co-leading the offense along with David West, making up for Paul George having his weakest night of the series.
Indiana sealed the deal in a series that was all about the home team until the final game, winning 81-73 in Atlanta. Their offense struggled quite enough, but their defense in the second quarter, keeping Atlanta on only 9 points, was too much for a short handed team to overcome. The three big-man concept stopped working as Josh Smith simply decimated his team’s chances by doing everything wrong, including 5-16 from the field and taking shots his coach Larry Drew specifically asked him not to.
Roy Hibbert, with 17 points, was a huge key once again, adding 11 rebounds. Hibbert listened to his critics this season by adding a lot to his offensive game, although he was less than consistent during the series. Still, his presence seemed to make the difference, as the Hawks rarely had anyone that could match him for size in the paint throughout an entire game.
With Hibbert on the court during the series, the Pacers outscored the Hawks by 58 points, but they were outscored by 27 without their starting center. With Hibbert on the floor, the Pacers outscored the Hawks by 44 points in the paint but they were outscored by 16 in the paint with Hibbert on the bench. The Pacers shot 44.7% from the field with him on the floor, 35.4% without him. He also affected the Hawks’ offense, obviously, falling from 47.2% when he was resting to 40% when he was on the floor.
I’m very proud of our guys to come in here, a tough place to win. A particularly tough place for us to win. It’s good to end that streak. But more importantly, it’s good to advance and show the type of toughness you need to make a deep playoff run. To win with defense and rebounding, that’s been our identity all year, and that was the key to the last two victories.
And Roy Hibbert against Tyson Chandler might be the most important matchup of the semifinals series against the Knicks. Paul George is going to have his hands full with Carmelo Anthony, but the two difference makers for both sides have been the centers, and the one that can make the most during his moments on the court might be the deciding factor.
George himself has got to erase these games from his hard disk. He finished with only 4 points on 2-10 from the field. No one on the Knicks’ team can disrupt him like Smith did too many times during the series, but it also has to do with his own shot selection. He did add 7 rebounds and 7 assists to counter his shooting problems in the Game 6 win, but without him doing a lot better on most nights, the Pacers won’t have enough backup scoring to fill in for his absence.