Hawks Drop Game 6 as Pacers Tie Series 3-3
The Hawks (3-3) weren’t able to get enough baskets late as the Pacers’ defense tightened up to get a 95-88 victory and force a Game 7 back in Indiana on Saturday. Paul George — 24 points, eight rebounds, and three assists — and David West — 24 points, 11 rebounds, six assists, two steals — led the Pacers to the win in the fourth quarter.
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West had 12 of his 24 in the fourth as he attacked Paul Millsap, and was especially aggressive after Millsap picked up his fifth foul with three minutes to play — West had six points in the final three minutes. George had nine of his 24 in the fourth including a step-back three — somewhat reminiscent of the one he hit in Game 4 — to keep the Pacers within one as the Hawks were trying to pull away, and he iced the game at the free throw line, making all four of his attempts in the final minute.
Once again, late game offensive execution faltered for the Hawks, who scored just four points in the final 3:16 of the game on 1-of-6 shooting along with two turnovers. The Hawks were not able to create any good open looks, and, while down two with 41 seconds to play, Lou Williams drove the baseline and his attempted kick out to the corner was intercepted. After two George free throws, Jeff Teague‘s floater came up short, allowing George to seal the game with two more free throws.
Teague was tremendous for most of the game and scored a game-high 29 points on 9-of-21 shooting. Teague scored 12 in the third quarter — 10 of which in the final four minutes — to take the Hawks from down nine to up three heading into the fourth quarter. He did a great job being aggressive and attacking the paint, particularly when he had the bigger George defending him, but in the final minutes Indiana made sure to get the ball out of his hands in the halfcourt to force someone else to create.
The Hawks’ offense struggled for the majority of the game as they shot just 35.8% from the field and 25.7% from three-point range. Williams was the only player to shoot 50% from the field for Atlanta — 6-for-12 — as the rest of the team struggled to make their field goals.
While Millsap shot just 4-for-13 from the field, he was a monster on the glass with 18 rebounds — five offensive — and had 16 points (7-of-8 from the free throw line), five assists, three steals, and two blocks. He was active on both ends, rotating hard on defense to close off the lane and doing what he could on offense to either get himself a look for a shot or foul or to pass out to an open teammate.
Millsap was handcuffed on defense after picking up his fifth foul, and for that final three minutes was unable to be as effective as he was on that end earlier in the game. George Hill‘s layup that put Indiana up one with just under two minutes to play, and West’s runner to put the Pacers up both were made possible by Millsap not being able to be aggressive — he wasn’t able to rotate hard from the weakside on the Hill layup and couldn’t go up strong to contest the West runner.
Lance Stephenson had a great first half to help the Pacers take a five point lead into the break, as he scored 13 of his 21 points in the first two quarters along with five of his nine rebounds. Hill finished with 14 points, four assists, and four rebounds and showed up when they needed him in the closing stages.
Like in Game 4, the Hawks had their chances late, but were unable to execute down the stretch. Pero Antic continued to struggle shooting the ball — five points and six rebounds on 1-of-7 shooting — and had a turnover and missed a three-pointer in the closing minutes. After a great 16 point outing, including eight in the fourth quarter, Williams had the crucial pass intercepted late. Credit the Pacers defense with some terrific pressure on the ball and in the passing lanes in the final minutes, but the Hawks weren’t moving the ball as well as they had in the late third and early fourth when they took the lead.
“We got stagnant on the offensive end; we stopped playing with a lot of pace and movement,” Teague said. “When we do that, it’s easy to guard…We’re a confident group, so we know we can bounce back. We know we can get a win. It’s just what we have to do.”
The Hawks will have to regroup once again, as they did after Game 4, and go back to Indiana to try and take a third game on the road on Saturday in Game 7.
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