The Pacers have won all three home games in the best-of-seven series and are 5-0 at home this season against the Hawks. They’ll go to Atlanta on Friday with a chance to clinch the best-of-seven series. But the Hawks have won 13 straight at home against the Pacers, including both games in this series.
Atlanta was led by Josh Smith and Al Horford, who each had 14 points. And it was every bit as ugly as the Hawks’ first two double-digit losses in Indy.
Indiana took the lead for good midway through the second quarter and opened the third period on a 12-3 run to make it 62-46. The Pacers put it away when the Hawks lost their composure.
On an ugly night that included 18 fouls during a 57-minute third quarter, three technical fouls for defensive 3-second violations, three more technical on Hawks players — Smith, Jeff Teague and Ivan Johnson — and yet another on Pacers coach Frank Vogel, everything was exhilarating for an Indiana team that reverted to its old style.
Indiana was the more physical team all night, outrebounding Atlanta 15-5 in the first quarter, 26-13 in the first half and 51-28 for the game. The Pacers outscored the Hawks 36-28 in the paint.
West, who had been struggling, led the charge by scoring 10 of 11 points during a key second-quarter stretch. George was nearly flawless, going 7-of-8 from the field and finishing with 10 rebounds and five assists.
And for the first time in the series, Atlanta shot under 50 percent from the field. The Hawks were just 25-of-75 for 33.3 percent.
Not surprisingly, the game looked more like the first two — both Pacers blowouts — than the last two, both Hawks wins.
After a back-and-forth start that featured six lead changes and two ties in the first quarter, the Pacers took command midway through the second. West scored the last six points in an 8-0 run that turned a 31-28 deficit into a 36-31 Pacers lead. Indiana followed that with a 9-4 spurt to take a 45-37 lead and never trailed again.
Indiana then opened the second half on the 12-3 run and extended the lead to 68-48 when George knocked down a 3 and George Hill made the free throw after Smith’s technical, then knocked down a 19-footer. Atlanta cut the lead to 81-67 at the end of three, but the Pacers used a 12-4 run to build a 21-point fourth-quarter lead.
The Hawks never challenged again.
NOTES: Atlanta scored 24 points in the third quarter despite shooting just 4-of-14. ... Colts linebacker Robert Mathis, former Indiana basketball players Jeff Oliphant and Brian Evans, and former Pacers center Rik Smits all attended the game. ... Game 6 will be played in Atlanta, where the Pacers have lost 13 straight. ... The two teams have met three other times in the playoffs. Indiana has only won one of those series.