Pacers drub Hawks to even playoff series (updated)

The Pacers answered back. Big time.

Facing a must-win after dropping the series opener at home to the Hawks, the Pacers responded with a strong second half. The result was the Pacers’ convincing 101-85 victory over the Hawks in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference playoff series Tuesday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. The best-of-seven series is tied 1-1.

Despite the lopsided loss, the Hawks got what they wanted in Indianapolis. They stole home-court advantage and now return to Atlanta for the next two games in the series.

They will return home with a bad taste in their mouth.

After leading for much of the first half, the Hawks scored just 33 points in the second half. They shot just 29 percent (12 of 41) from the field, including 15 percent (2 of 13) from 3-point range.

“I just think we missed shots,” Jeff Teague said. “We had open looks that we normally make and they came down and were aggressive on the offensive end.”

The Pacers led by as many as 27 points in the fourth quarter. The Hawks signaled surrender and pulled their starters with 6:58 remaining.

The game changed in the third quarter. The Pacers dominated – from start to finish. Paul George hit a 3-pointer to start the period. He ended it with a buzzer-beating 3-pointer. He screamed at the Hawks bench after the shot and was mobbed by teammates. The basket gave the Pacers a commanding 79-65 advantage. The Pacers outscored the Hawks 31-13 and shot 12 of 16 from the field.

“I think the third quarter our execution on both ends of the court wasn’t at the level we needed it to be,” Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer said. “Give them credit. They were aggressive. They made a lot of plays. Our execution, particularly in the third quarter, has to be better throughout the game.”

When the Pacers scored the first eight points of the fourth quarter, part of a 19-0 run between periods, and the lead was 22. It would continue to grow until the white flag was raised.

Paul Millsap led the Hawks with 19 points, only four in the second half. Teague finished with 14 points, two after intermission. Lou Williams and Mike Scott had 11 points to round out the Hawks in double figures.

The fired up George scored a game-high 27 points to lead the Pacers. He was still in the game with less than six minutes remaining and the Pacers up big. He finally exited with 5:14 remaining. Luis Scola scored 20 points off the bench, including 11 in the second quarter. Scola was coming off an 0-for-6 performance in Game 1.

“Somebody asked me if today’s game was what they brought me here for,” Scola said. “I answered, I’m not sure why they bring me here but I know what they didn’t bring me here for. That was the way I played in Game 1. I missed a lot of shots that I usually make. The same shots I took today, I make.”

The Pacers made several defensive switches to start the game – most notably putting George on Teague. They also put David West on Pero Antic and Roy Hibbert on Millsap. Teague had burned the Pacers for 28 points in the Game 1 win.

“I was dialed in,” George said of the assignment. “I wanted to edit how we guarded him in Game 1. It was homework for me. Just locking in to what he does. What’s his tendencies? Where can I get beat? Where am I vulnerable against him? It’s a challenge. I always want a challenge. He is a guy who I know is going to come back at me in Game 3. I’ve got to watch how I guarded him tonight and learn from that.”

The Hawks withstood the Pacers’ first punch, a 7-0 run to start the game as the Hawks missed their first five shots. The Hawks went on a 21-8 run and grabbed a six-point lead, 21-15. Teague had seven points in the run and finished the first quarter with seven points, five rebounds and three assists. The Hawks led 26-21 after the first quarter.

The Hawks’ advantage grew to as many as 11 points in the second quarter, 38-27. The only thing that saved the Pacers was Scola, who scored 11 of the team’s first 13 points in the period. The Hawks took a 52-48 lead into intermission.

Late in the second quarter, Teague beat George to the basket for a layup and stared him down on the way down the court. George responded with a 3-pointer on the ensuing possession and returned the look.

“It didn’t change anything,” Teague said of being guarded by George. “We just missed shots in the third quarter. We got the looks we wanted. I got in the paint. There were just some shots we missed.”

The series moves to Atlanta for Game 3 Thursday and Game 4 Saturday.

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