ATLANTA – Ghostbusters? You could call it that if you want.
Perhaps its a little melodramatic but when a team hasn’t won in a building in nearly seven years, history can start to pile up.
Before Friday Philips Arena was a jinxed venue for the Pacers, who dropped an unlucky 13 consecutive games in the home of the Atlanta Hawks-including two in the team’s Eastern Conference Quarterfinals series. Those contests went to the the hosts by 21 and 11 points, respectively, which was a far cry from their dominance in the opening two games a Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Similar circumstances presented itself again in Game Six of the series as the Pacers carried momentum from a 106-83 romp over the Hawks at home into a potential closeout game in Atlanta. Would that finally be enough to expunge the issues the blue and gold have had on the Hawks home court.
Finally, the answer was in the affirmative.
With the Pacers tightening up the defense and the Hawks falling apart early on offense early, Indiana snapped their 13-game losing streak in Atlanta with an 81-73 Game Six victory. It gives Frank Vogel’s team a 4-2 series victory and a spot in the Eastern Conference Semifinals where they will face either the Knicks or the Celtics.
In the Vogel era, the Pacers are now 2-0 in closeout games. The other victory came in Game Five of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals in 2012 against the Magic.
So what was it that finally snapped the streak and helped the Pacers advance? A lot had to do with the formula that worked at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in three previous wins.
Instead of trailing big at the half (24 points in Game Three, 17 in Game Four), the Pacers led the Hawks for a majority of the half. Some of that had to do with a stronger Pacers defense but the Hawks contributed to the blue and gold’s success thanks to their woeful shooting. In the first 24 minutes Atlanta hit just 9-of-38 shots from the field and missed their final 14 shots of the half in by far their worst shooting performance of the series.
While the Pacers weren’t a lot better-35 percent from the field in the first two quarters-it was enough for the team to grab a 35-29 halftime lead.
Similar to their trio of wins at home the Pacers established themselves in the third quarter and appeared ready to make it a blowout. Twice in the quarter the Pacers extended the lead to 19 points and kept the advantage by 15 as they headed to the fourth quarter.
Yet the Hawks finally found themselves in the fourth quarter and exploded on a 17-4 run that got the game within four points with just over three minutes to go. But the Pacers tightened up on defense down the stretch and clinched the victory when David West deflected a Josh Smith three-point attempt with 38 seconds to go.