INDIANAPOLIS – The rhetoric was simple and predictable in the three days of build up: Both teams needed to have short memories.
The Pacers preached that in hopes of motivating themselves to take a 2-0 lead in their Eastern Conference Quarterfinals series against the Hawks on Wednesday night. Atlanta was hoping to put a 17-point loss to Indiana in Game One Sunday behind them and reclaim a sense of toughness against a Pacers team that frankly was more physical.
Yet when the second game arrived it appeared the Pacers had a pretty good recollection of their first victory in the series. Once again the Pacers got a first half lead, expanded it in the third quarter then shut the door in the fourth to pick up the 113-98 victory Wednesday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Paul George led the way for the Pacers with 27 points while George Hill added 22 as the Pacers blew the game open in the second half for a second consecutive victory over the Hawks. Once again the Pacers won the rebounding battle 32-30 including a 15-11 advantage on the offensive boards.
Frank Vogel’s team shot 47 percent from the field and took eight more shots than the Hawks and hit ten more free throws.
Indiana now has a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series as it switches to Atlanta for Game Three on Saturday night with the tipoff set for 7 P.M.
“I’m proud of our guys for playing a pretty complete basketball game,” said Vogel. “There are still some areas we definitely need to improve. We had some adversity to overcome with Lance Stephenson’s injury and David West being in foul trouble
“The bench really rose to the occasion and made some big plays.”
The first quarter was nearly a carbon copy of the first game as the Pacers fell behind 5-0 early but were able to establish control by the end of 12 minutes. A day after being named the NBA’s Most Improved Player, George made his presence felt by hitting 4-of-6 shots from the field in the quarter and scoring 11 points as the Pacers led 25-19 at the end of one.
A bruised hip would keep Stephenson out for the rest of the second half but the Pacers were able to cope without losing the lead. D.J. Augustin and Gerald Green saw the bulk of the minutes with Stephenson out and combined for 15 second quarter points that helped Indiana to a 59-50 halftime lead.
Similar to Game One, the Pacers began to assert control in the third quarter. The Pacers led by as many 16 following a Green three-pointer later in the quarter and even after a brief Atlanta rally were able to push the lead back to 12 before the end of the quarter on a dunk by Green off a long pass from David West with under two seconds to go.
The pressure from the Pacers continued in the final quarter as the Pacers never let the Hawks back into the game. George’s three-pointer with just over six minutes left gave the Pacers a 102-85 advantage as the forward wrapped up another solid game as his team took a step closer the second round.