INDIANAPOLIS – Would the recent past prologue when it comes to the NBA?
The Pacers and their fans were about to find out.
A solid regular season in which finished with a Central Division Championship and 49 wins was tempered a bit when the team dropped five-of-its-last-six games-falling behind by at least 20 points in all of them. Would that continue into the postseason or instead focus the team to regroup and make good on the hope for a deep playoff run that was generated most of this winter?
Some of these questions figured to be answered Sunday afternoon when the Pacers opened their best-of-seven Eastern Conference Quarterfinals series against Atlanta at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. For one afternoon, it was done so positively.
The Pacers started the playoffs right with a 107-90 victory over the Hawks Sunday afternoon to grab a 1-0 series lead. Paul George registered the second triple-double in Pacers playoff history with 23 points, 12 assists and 11 rebounds while George Hill added 18 points and Roy Hibbert 16 points.
Indiana dominated on the boards, beating the Hawks 48-32 including a 15-6 advantage on the offensive glass while also hitting 30-of-34 from the free throw line.
Game two will take place again at Bankers Life Fieldhouse Wednesday with tip time coming at 7:30 P.M.
The Pacers may have had a few concerned early as they quickly fell behind 6-0 but Hill quickly helped the team get rolling. Over the first 12 minutes the guard hit all five shots he took from the field and scored 13 points as the Pacers led by eight at the end of a quarter.
George took on the bulk of the scoring in a more defensive second quarter, putting in seven points including a layup-and-foul just before the break to put the Pacers back up by eight points at the break.
In the third the Pacers were able to gain some separation as outscored the Hawks 26-19 with eight of those points coming from George. A three-pointer by Lance Stephenson would push the lead to as high as 16 as the Pacers defense began to put the clamps on the Hawks.
As they did in a game back in March at Bankers Life Fieldhouse-when they cut a 28-point 3rd quarter Pacers lead to four-the Hawks were able to cut the lead to eight on a three-pointer by DeShawn Stevenson with 7:22 to go. But the Pacers weren’t about to let them back up getting the lead quickly back to 12 on a three by Hill with 6:38 to go.
Once again Atlanta got the lead under double digits but some key offensive rebounds led to second chance buckets that eventually put the game away. Lance Stephenson’s bucket with 3:02 remaining pushed the Pacers over 100 points and the lead to 15 to seal up the team’s first playoff win.