INDIANAPOLIS – Home floor really does mean something in this series-and it doesn’t take a gifted pundit to realize it.
The Pacers are a different team in their gold swaggered home of Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Even if its not full of fans, the Hawks are much better in Philips Arena.
Four games in their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series have proven that true. If anything, Game Four solidified the thought.
Atlanta continued their domination over Indiana at Philips Arena in a 102-91 victory Monday night in Atlanta to tie the best-of-seven series at 2-2, beating the Pacers for a 13th consecutive time at the venue.
Josh Smith led the way for Atlanta with a game-high 29 points and a team-high 11 rebounds while Kyle Korver had 19 points off the bench including five three-pointers. Paul George led the Pacers in scoring (21) and rebounding (12) while David West added 15.
Game Five will shift back to Indiana on Wednesday with the game time either at 6 or 8 P.M.
Once again the Pacers saw a quick early lead evaporate on a major Hawks offensive run. Tyler Hansbrough’s layup gave the Pacers a 21-14 first quarter lead but it was downhill from there as Atlanta ended the quarter on an 8-0 run . Devin Harris’ layup just before the horn gave the Hawks a one-point advantage after 12 minutes.
The offensive barrage continued for the rest of the half as the Hawks shot 55 percent from the floor and hit 7-of-11 three-point attempts. They would outscore the Pacers 35-19 in the second quarter and led by as many as 19 points before the halftime buzzer sounded, setting up what figured to be a second straight blowout in Philips Arena.
But unlike Game 3-and many of the team’s games in Atlanta the past seven years-the Pacers had another run left in them come the second half. Similar to their first two games the Pacers drove inside for a number of shots in the paint to establish an offensive rhythm. Meanwhile the Hawks finally cooled off, hitting just three shots from the field for the quarter and just one in the final 10:04.
All contributed to a solid quarter in which the Pacers got the Atlanta lead as low as four points on a Ian Mahinmi jumper and trailed by just seven at the end of the third in which they outscored the Hawks 22-12.
Atlanta continued to keep the Pacers at an arm’s length for most of the quarter never letting the Pacers get closer than five. The Hawks rediscovered their first half prowess from the three-point line as Korver hit two and Smith one from behind the arc in the final 5:33.
The last of those by Korver got the lead to nine points with 2:32 remaining and turned this best-of-seven series in to a three-game battle for a second round spot.