Jeff Teague exploded in the second half for 15 points and five assists on his way to a 22-point, 10-assist night to lead the Hawks (2-1) to a 98-85 victory in Game 3. Kyle Korver found his stroke in the second half as well, hitting 3-of-4 from the three-point line, including a four-point play, for 12 of his 20 points on the night. Paul Millsap had 14 points and 14 rebounds and played solid defense against the Pacers’ bigs, and DeMarre Carroll was exceptional and efficient, with 18 points on 6-of-8 shooting from the field and had 14 of those 18 in the second half.
Hawks vs. Pacers
After a defensive struggle for the first half that finished at 39-38 Hawks, Atlanta’s offense came alive in the second half for 61 points on 48.5% shooting (10-of-18 from three) after shooting 30 percent from the field (2-of-16 from three) in the first half. The Hawks’ offense was jump-started by their aggressive play to attack the center of the Pacers’ defense, and then worked the ball inside-out to move the defense and create open looks. Atlanta had a number of open looks that they missed in the first half, but continued to play their game and in the second half those shots fell.
“You know, sometimes that happens with shooting,” Korver said. “Sometimes you just miss. You work on it everyday and try to get your mechanics perfect and sometimes you just miss. I thought we had good looks, we had a lot of energy…Sometimes when you’re pumped up you shoot a bunch of threes, and sometimes you miss them and I thought that kinda happened in the first half. We settled down and our defense was solid all night, which allowed us to keep a lead even though we were 2-for-16 from three and then we did some good things in the second half.”
The Hawks’ defense was tremendous all night, which, as Korver said, allowed them time to get their offensive rhythm to come around. Atlanta’s defensive presence was headed up by Carroll, who limited Paul George to 3-of-11 shooting for 12 points and 14 rebounds. After having two big offensive games in Indiana, George was slowed by the Hawks’ defensive pressure.
“I’ve been doing it all year,” Carroll said. “Coach has been really relying on me. He told me before the season that he wanted me to guard the best player every night and that’s what I wanted to do. So, I’m trying to be one of these elite defenders. Without my teammates helping me , cause it’s not only me, it’s my teammates. They’re making the right reads. With Paul George, we just try to be aggressive real early and get him out the game, and you know, he didn’t make too many shots.”
In the third quarter, Carroll had nine points and Teague had a massive transition dunk that lifted the energy of the team and the fans. The Hawks also got a boost in the third from Lou Williams off the bench, who had a pair of threes including a step-back at the end of the quarter that pushed Atlanta’s lead from six to nine heading into the fourth quarter. In that fourth quarter, Teague and Korver took over.
Teague had 11 points in the fourth, including another huge breakaway dunk, and the shot of the game where he hit a falling, fading three at the shot clock buzzer to give the Hawks a nine-point lead with 2:49 to play. The referees reviews the play, and even though Teague stepped out of bounds prior to the shot, they were unable to overturn the play because the only thing they can review is where his feet were when he jumped for the shot, and both of his feet had been reestablished inbounds by that time. A similar event happened at the end of the half, where George Hill tipped in a shot that was still on the rim, but because it was not called basket interference, that ruling could not be reviewed, only whether the tip came before the buzzer — which it did.
Korver hit the dagger three-pointer from the corner with 1:41 left that put the Hawks up 92-80. Atlanta would put the game on ice at the free throw line, where they finished 30-for-37 (81.1%).
Atlanta’s aggressive play at both ends of the floor was the difference in the game. The Hawks were able to pressure Indiana’s offense into contested looks and held them to 37.6% shooting — 5-of-20 from three. The Hawks defensive intensity was steady throughout the game, and they only trailed for 26.4 seconds near the end of the first half. Lance Stephenson (21), David West (16), and Luis Scola (17) led the Pacers in scoring, but ended up as the only players on the team to shoot 50% or better on the game — no one else shot better than 33.3% from the field.
That defensive intensity turned into offensive pace, as the Hawks had 18 fastbreak points to Indiana’s nine. The Hawks were able to turn Indiana turnovers and missed shots into transition and semi-transition looks in the second half, which kept Indiana’s defense from getting set. Atlanta moved the ball well with 21 assists after recording season-lows in the first two games at 13 in each game. Teague spear-headed the attack — on both ends, holding Hill to four points on 1-of-10 shooting — and his aggressive play fueled the rest of the team.
” is the head of the snake,” Elton Brand said. “When he plays well, we play well.”
Philips Arena was rocking throughout the game as the 18,124 in attendance rallied behind the Hawks and helped push them to the victory, to maintain home-court advantage.
“Our crowd tonight was amazing by the way,” Korver said. “That was the best Hawks crowd I’ve ever been a part of. It’s one thing to cheer when your team makes a play, it’s another to cheer your team TO make a good play. I thought a couple times when we were down they really got us going, so that was really awesome tonight.”
The Hawks and Pacers will play Game 4 at 2 p.m. on Saturday afternoon, as the Hawks will look to maintain home-court advantage and take a 3-1 series lead.
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