Amid all the media coverage of Roy Hibbert’s demise and the Indiana Pacers’ defense being beaten all ends up by the Hawks five-out offense, one man went rather unnoticed.
Paul George has, for his part, been the best Pacer in this series and proved why he was seen as a potential outsider for the MVP award at the beginning of the season.
George scored 30 points, a playoff career-high. He started the night 1-5 from the floor before going on a run of hitting 10 of his next 11 shots to finish 11-23 from the field.
Lance Stephenson contributed 19 points and 14 rebounds and was once more the pesky, loud and irritating presence he so often was, though this time his plays benefited the Pacers rather than hindered them.
Roy Hibbert has been pilloried all series for his shocking downturn in production and he too had his best game of the series, scoring eight quick points in the first quarter on his way to 13 points and 7 rebounds. He had just 24 points and 19 rebounds in the previous six games combined.
The Hawks have relied on their outside shooting to spread the floor all series, hitting three after three as the Pacers never learned to close out and trouble them.
They never learned, that is, until it mattered. Indiana forced the Hawks into some early misses that rattled their confidence. From that point on, Atlanta’s shooters were hesitant to shoot, allowing the Pacers defense to stay in position and contest almost every three.
And what open threes they did find, the Hawks couldn’t hit. Atlanta shot a miserable 30.4 percent from the floor including 11-44 from behind the line, the place they’ve made their living all series.
Paul Millsap was a horrid 6-21 and Jeff Teague not much better at 5-16 with neither hitting a three out of 7 combined attempts. Kyle Korver was the only Hawk to hit more half of his shots – 6-13 from the floor and 5-10 from deep.
The Hawks will be remembered for the role they played in almost pulling off one of the most improbable eight-seed over one-seed upsets we’ll ever see. They had the Pacers questioning the very fabric of their team in search of answers and forced them to call on every ounce of their ability to send them packing.
Paul George: 30 points, 11-23 FGS, 11 rebounds
Lance Stephenson: 19 points, 8-12 FGS, 14 rebounds
Roy Hibbert: 13 points, 6-10 FGS, 7 rebounds
Kyle Korver: 19 points, 6-13 FGS, 5-10 3 FGS
Jeff Teague: 16 points, 5-16 FGS
Paul Millsap: 15 points, 6-21 FGS, 17 rebounds
The Indiana Pacers win 4-3, will face the Washington Wizards in the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals.