The Indiana Pacers looked poised to take a lead in the series against the Atlanta Hawks before Monday’s game. Home court advantage and momentum were on their side to go along with a crowd ready to explode.
Instead the Pacers would receive boos from the Indiana fans as the Hawks routed the Pacers 107-97.
The second quarter was a complete disaster for the Pacers. It started with a questionable lineup featuring George Hill, CJ Watson, Evan Turner, Luis Scola, and Ian Mahinmi. That group can neither score nor defend particularly well. They were on the court together for just over five minutes, during which the Hawks went on a 20-4 run.
The Hawks used a barrage of three-pointers to knock out the Pacers in this quarter. It was led by Mike Scott, who hit four in a row against Scola, and ended the quarter with five triples. Scola had no business trying to defend Scott, and was constantly out of position on him.
The Pacers defense continued to be porous even after the starters returned to the hardwood. The transition defense, which has been particularly bad lately, wasn’t much better and led to a number of easy looks from the arc.
The Hawks did the majority of the damage with their best players, Jeff Teague and Paul Millsap, on the bench. The Hawks his eight three pointers in the quarter, leading to a 21-point lead by half time. The Pacers were outscored 41-19 in the quarter with the Hawks bench contributing 34 points.
The Hawks cruised for the rest of the game after the big second quarter.
The defense wasn’t there for Indiana as the Pacers routinely failed to challenge shots, fight off screens, or keep players in front of them. Everything has always started on defense for this squad, but the Hawks were able to pick the Pacers apart and look like a team that finished second in the conference instead of eighth and under .500.
The Hawks shot 50-percent from the field and hit 15 three pointers (a record against the Pacers in the playoffs). After the first quarter, the Pacers couldn’t string together stops or defend the perimeter. The Hawks even held a significant rebounding advantage by the end of the game.
It was an embarrassing loss that even saw coach Frank Vogel lay into the team during a timeout in a way he hasn’t had to do all season long. It had little effect as the team didn’t, or couldn’t respond.
I honestly have no clue what Vogel was thinking with the aforementioned second quarter lineup. They started the bleeding, and nothing would have been able to stop it.
Chris Copeland finally got minutes, in the middle of the third quarter, but it wasn’t effective. He is a player that could have an impact in this series, but fails to get on the court. At the very least he will help stretch the floor.
The Pacers started out the night with a lot of energy, but failed to execute and left a lot of first quarter points on the floor due to mental mistakes and rushed shots.
The Pacers fell behind by 30 points at one point, but managed to cut it to 20 by the start of the fourth. They cut in deep using a lineup of David West, Paul George, Hill, Watson, and Copeland to get the lead to single digits. But in the end, it was too little too late.
That lineup presented all kinds of matchup problems for the Hawks as those players were able to easily defend the three point line and clog the passing lanes. It is a wonder that Vogel has taken so long to switch to this smaller, more athletic lineup. He has to adapt and if he is smart about it would come up with something similar to start out the next game.
The Pacers have to learn to play every playoff game with the same sense of desperation as they did in the fourth quarter. The scheme change had to be there as well, but the effort certainly helped. If they play like that for 48 minutes, they can still win the series. But even if they get out of the first round, I can’t see them going any further.
The Hawks lead the series 3-2 and the Pacers face elimination on Thursday at 7PM in Atlanta.