The Pacers had statistically the best defense in the NBA this season. They shut teams down. The only question was could they score enough to win in the postseason?
Yes. Yes they can.
The Pacers answered that question early and often, putting up 34 points in the first quarter and getting triple-double from Paul George, and they handled the Hawks comfortably 107-90.
The Pacers lead the series 1-0, Game 2 is set for Wednesday night in Indy.
The Pacers scored plenty — 34 in the first quarter. George Hill started out 5-5 shooting with 13 points in the first quarter and the Hawks just had defensive breakdown after breakdown. Things were going so well early even Tyler Hansbrough had a strip and coast-to coast run. The Pacers were up by as many as 12 in the first.
From the opening tip the Pacers were the aggressors and it showed in free throws — Indiana got to the line 34 times, making 30. George himself got there 18 times. The entire Atlanta team was 7-of-14 from the line.
George finished the game with 23 points, 12 assists and 11 rebounds.
Atlanta found what they need to do in the second quarter when they started getting the ball inside for shots close to the basket — Atlanta got 30 first half points in the paint — 15 shots in the second quarter came from inside the paint. And they forced the Pacers outside more.
Second quarter felt like Hawks were better side, but it was 24-24 for the quarter and the Pacers were still up 8.
Then in the third things reverted to form, the Pacers got back to owning the paint and they held the Hawks to 19 points. From there they pretty much coasted in, holding off a few Hawks charges.
Another sign the Pacers owned the paint — they won the offensive rebound battle, 14-6.
Indy got good production from their role players. Lance Stephenson had a mature game, was 5-of-9 shooting for 13 points. George Hill had 18 points, Roy Hibbert had 16 points and six Pacers were in double figures.
Jeff Teague had 21 points to lead the Hawks.
Josh Smith summed up the Hawks on the day — 15 points on 7-of-15 shooting. But he was 2-of-9 outside the paint and 5-of-6 inside it. That’s both very Josh Smith and shows what the Hawks need to do to steal Game 2 Wednesday.