Jeff Teague led the Hawks with a career playoff high of 28 points. Paul Millsap added 25 points. The two combined for 27 of the Hawks’ 30 points in a decisive third quarter.
DeMarre Carroll had playoff highs of 12 points and 10 rebounds. Korver chipped in with 12 points as the Hawks contributions got up and down the lineup.
The Hawks took control of the game in the third quarter. They pushed their lead to 20 points, 94-74, when Millsap hit a pair of free throws with 6:21 remaining. They held off a Pacers rally that never really had a chance but made the game seem closer than it was.
“We don’t think we are an eighth seed,” Millsap said. “We think we are better than an eighth seed. Throughout the season, we had injuries. Whatever the case may be, we dropped games but, to us, our confidence is high because we don’t think we are an eighth seed.”
Paul George led the Pacers with 24 points. All-Star center Roy Hibbert continued to be befuddled. He finished with eight points, six of which came in the fourth quarter with the game out of hand.
The Hawks became the third road team to win opening-series games Saturday in the NBA playoffs.
The Hawks – specifically Teague and Millsap – took over in the third quarter. The period started with an 8-0 run. Millsap began the quarter by driving by David West and converting a three-point play.
The Hawks led by as many as 18 points after a 20-4 run. A Carroll 3-pointer was the only other basket. Teague had nine straight points at one point of the big run.
“I just wanted to be aggressive,” Teague said. “They are a great defensive team. They are big, long and athletic. You have to drive the ball pretty aggressive to get it to the open man. We’ve got a lot of shot makers. We know they are a long team that likes to clog the paint. But we want to stretch the floor against them.”
The Hawks big run began after Pero Antic and West exchanged words and both were hit with technical fouls.
“Throughout the game he used the elbow a lot,” Antic said. “The referee warned him. I made a foul. It wasn’t dirty, just a normal foul. He just came in my face for no reason. I did nothing but I’m not going to back down. It’s too expensive to do something else. So I just stand still.”
The Hawks took a commanding 80-66 advantage into the final 12 minutes.
The teams entered intermission tied 50-50 after an entertaining first half.
The Pacers took an early 7-2 lead before the Hawks went on a 16-2 run for a nine-point advantage. Korver, Millsap and Antic all hit 3-pointers during the run. Millsap was fouled on his and converted the four-point play. The Hawks held a 28-22 lead after the first quarter. The Hawks held a 15-7 rebound advantage, including 5-1 on the offensive glass, after the period.
The Pacers tied the game at 30-30 with a 8-2 run to start the second quarter as Lance Stephenson scored six straight points. The Hawks kept the Pacers at bay until a 6-0 run keyed when Lou Williams was called for a clear-path foul on George. He made both free throws and then a jumper on the ensuing possession for a six-point lead, 49-43.
The Hawks closed the first half on a 7-1 run. On the final play, George was holding for one shot when he was stripped by Cartier Martin. Teague gathered the loose ball but missed a layup that Korver put back at the buzzer.
Korver also came up with a highlight-reel block of Hibbert and the Pacers center tried to put up a shot in traffic.
“I’m happy for our guys to be rewarded for their efforts and for the way they played together,” Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer said. “But there is a lot of basketball. It’s only one game. Our goal is to continue to get better and focus on where we need to improve, not be too happy, not let that seep in.”
The series continues with Game 2 Tuesday.