Indiana Pacers v Atlanta Hawks - Game Three

Pacers’ playoff-best offense disintegrates in Atlanta


Devin Harris needed just 4.5 seconds to slice through the Pacers’ defense for a layup late in the first half, leaving only 1.8 seconds for the Pacers. George Hill launched a desperation heave that obviously missed, but the look was only marginally better than the shots Indiana got most of the game.

The Hawks’ offense came easy enough, and the Pacers forced quick shots to make their offense difficult enough, and now, Indiana’s series lead is suddenly a dicey 2-1 after a 90-69 Game 3 loss today. Since early in the second quarter, Atlanta’s lead fluctuated between 18 and 28 points

The Pacers, despite playing a top-10 regular-season defense, entered the game an NBA-best 117.8 points per 100 possessions. Today, their offensive rating sunk to 70.2.

I suppose the Hawks deserve some credit, making this series as close a series can be through three games, but Indiana just played bad. Despite their well-deserved reputation as a tough team, the Pacers have the worst road record (19-21) of any top-five seed in either conference, and they’ve lost 12 straight in Atlanta. The last time Indiana won there, Stephen Jackson and Al Harrington led the team in scoring.

These new-look Pacers have more talent, but they shot just 27 percent from the field and 16 percent on 3-pointers. Indiana’s backcourt was particularly bad, with guards George Hill, Lance Stephenson, D.J. Augustin, Orlando Johnson and Ben Hansbrough combining to shoot 2-for-25. But the Pacers’ problems weren’t isolated to those five. Indiana finished with as many field goals as turnovers (22).

The Hawks didn’t play great – they shot below 43 percent from the field, below 27 percent on 3-pointers and below 58 percent on free three throws – but they stopped doing all the things wrong that plagued them in the series’ first two games. Al Horford had 26 points, 16 rebounds, two steals and two blocks, which is what he can do when Larry Drew doesn’t foolishly sit him for picking up early fouls.

Ivan Johnson replaced Kyle Korver in the starting lineup, and although Johnson played OK (six points and four rebounds in 14 minutes), the Hawks probably picked the wrong physical player in a switch to a bigger lineup. Petro was the only Atlanta player with a negative plus-minus (-3). The Hawks played much better with Ivan Johnson, who had seven points and seven rebounds and a +21 rating. They were better with even displaced-starter Korver, who was +14.

Atlanta made adjustments and played better, but that wasn’t the story of Game 3. Really, this was about the Pacers just falling apart in a tough environment.

Kings pick up option on G Ben McLemore

Ben McLemore, Rodney Hood
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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) The Sacramento have picked up the 2016-17 option on guard Ben McLemore‘s contract.

General manager Vlade Divac announced the move Saturday.

McLemore was Sacramento’s first-round pick in 2013. He averaged 12.1 points, 2.9 rebounds and 1.7 assists last season.

Paul George reiterates “I don’t know if I’m cut out for a four spot”

Paul George

In the Pacers first exhibition game of the season Saturday against the Pelicans, Paul George started at the power forward spot and looked healthy — that should be the big takeaway. He also showed off his offensive game in the first quarter, eventually finishing the night with 18 points on 7-of-15 shooting. He forced some shots in the second half and had some defensive challenges, but it was a solid outing for a first preseason game.

George did not see it that way, and that will end up being the big takeaway.

He complained about playing power forward during training camp and given the chance after this one game he did it again, as reported by Candace Buckner of the Indy Star.

“I don’t know if I’m cut out for a four spot,” George said after the Pacers’ 110-105 loss to the New Orleans Pelicans, a game in which he started matched up against 6-foot-11 All-Star Anthony Davis.

“I don’t know if this is my position. We’ll sit and watch tape and I’m sure I’ll talk with coach (Frank Vogel). I’ll talk with Larry (Bird) as well to get both their inputs on how the first game went but…I’m still not comfortable with it regardless of the situation. It’s still something I have to adjust to or maybe not. Or maybe it’s something we can go away from.”

George sees himself as a wing, where he has played his entire career. He doesn’t like defending traditional fours, as a scorer he doesn’t like expending all that energy defending pick-and-rolls and banging with bigger bodies. He’s been clear about that.

He still needs to be open to the idea. How much time George gets at the four on any given night should depend on the matchup — and Anthony Davis is about as rough a matchup as he is going to see. Davis scored 18 points in 15 minutes, and the Pelicans controlled the paint against the small-ball Pacers. George had a hard time defending Davis — welcome to a rather large club, PG. That said, George scored 12 points in the first quarter mostly with Davis on him, he pulled the big out in space and got what he wanted.

Back to the matchups point, George will struggle defensively against the best fours in the game (most of whom are in the West). But what about the nights in the East when George would be matched up on Thaddeus Young from Brooklyn, Jared Sullinger (or David Lee, or whoever) from Boston, or Aaron Gordon with the Magic, or Carmelo Anthony with the Knicks when they play small? There are a lot of lineups the Pacers will see where George at the four makes sense.

The Pacers are transitioning from a plodding and defensive-minded squad to a more up-tempo style, and that’s going to take time— a lot more than one preseason game. However, if George is throwing cold water on the plan after this one effort, it might take a lot longer and be a lot bumpier to make that transition than we pictured.