Pacers center Hibbert, West and George celebrate as they walk off the court after defeating the Atlanta Hawks in their first-round Eastern Conference playoff NBA basketball game in Atlanta

Ice cold shooting Hawks freeze themselves out of playoffs with 81-73 loss to Pacers

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It wasn’t pretty.

Not this series, not Game 6 where the winning team had an offensive rating of 86 points per 100 possessions (the worst offense in the NBA this season was the Wizards at 97 per 100… this was that bad).

But in both Game 6 and the series the Indiana Pacers were the better team and they finally broke the string of blowout wins by home teams in this series, knocking off the Hawks 81-73 to advance to the second round.

Indiana opens their second round playoff series against the Knicks on Sunday at Madison Square Garden. The Hawks can start booking flights to Mexico for vacation.

When you’re looking for reasons the Hawks lost this game, start in the second quarter — in a series with some ugly stretches this was the flat out worst of them all. Atlanta shot 1-of-15 in the second quarter, and that loan basket came with more than 10 minutes to go off a Kyle Korver jumper. The Pacers are a good defensive team, but the Hawks helped out by just being bad.

The Pacers weren’t much better, shooting 7-of-22 in the quarter, but they won it 16-9. Well, won is the wrong word. They survived it in better shape.

Then the Pacers went on a 13-2 run early in the fourth quarter and pushed the lead to 19, with David West (10 points in the quarter) and George Hill (12 in the quarter) leading the way. West finished with 21 points (on 21 shots), Hill had 21.

The Hawks chipped away at the lead, making a game of it after a 17-4 fourth quarter run. Josh Smith had 7 of his 14 points on the night in the fourth (but he needed 16 points to get there.

When Al Horford threw down a dunk with 2:41 left it was a three point game and the often quiet crowd at Phillips Arena was rocking. But they had little to cheer about the rest of the way. First West got a bucket to make it five, then the Hawks went cold again. The scored stayed at 78-73 and you could feel another Josh Smith three point attempt coming — and West blocked that.

Then you knew.

The Hawks are going to be shaken up this summer — Josh Smith is a free agent and I wouldn’t bet on his return. GM Danny Ferry has seen enough of this iteration of Atlanta basketball and will remake the roster around Al Horford.

The Pacers move on to face the Knicks in a battle of strength on strength — the Pacers defense against the Knicks offense. But the question is can the Pacers score enough to win? They didn’t have to in Game 6 against the Hawks, they will in New York.

Craig Sager to get third bone marrow transplant thanks to anonymous donor

CLEVELAND, OH - JUNE 16:  Legendary TNT sideline reporter Craig Sager talks with Game 6 of the 2016 NBA Finals between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors at Quicken Loans Arena on June 16, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. Sager is on a one game assignment for ESPN. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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Craig Sager couldn’t be in Rio covering the Olympics for NBC, his cancer wouldn’t allow it. That didn’t stop Team USA from reaching out to him before they left. Or from Nike designing a sweet pair of shoes for him.

Now there is good news on his battle against leukemia — he will have a third bone marrow transplant, according to his son Craig Sager II.

This is fantastic news for a man and family who have been through a lot. Hopefully, this treatment is a step forward for Sager, a man beloved by everyone around the NBA.

Report: With Joffrey Lauvergne trade, Mitch McGary likely done with Thunder

DALLAS, TX - MARCH 16:  Mitch McGary #33 of the Oklahoma City Thunder at American Airlines Center on March 16, 2015 in Dallas, Texas.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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The Oklahoma City frontcourt is crowded. Enes Kanter and Steven Adams will start, and they will have Nick Collison, Ersan Ilyasova, Domantas Sabonis, and now Joffrey Lauvergne behind them.

Which likely means Mitch McGary‘s done as a member of the Thunder, according to Royce Young of ESPN.

McGary has battled injuries his two seasons in the league and got on the court for only 72 minutes total last season for the Thunder (he played in more games and put up solid numbers in the D-LEague). He was not part of the future there regardless. He’s an undersized five trying to play the four and what he brought as a rookie — energy — was not enough as a sophomore.

McGary will make $1.5 million this season. He may be tough to move because he’s suspended for the first five games he’s eligible to play next season for failing the league’s drug policy (five games is the standard suspension for testing positive for marijuana three times). Maybe a team looking to develop players will give him a shot, but there is little trade value for him.

Dwight Howard is shooting 19-footers to improve his free throw stroke

Dwight Howard
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If you can knock down a 19-foot shot, then a 15-footer should be easier. Right?

Apparently that — and just basic muscle memory — is the latest attempt to improve Dwight Howard‘s free throw shooting. And, he seems to be knocking down those shots.

It’s not hard to see the logic in this approach.

The challenge is form and reps are not the problems for Howard — or DeAndre Jordan or Andre Drummond or others — when it comes to hitting free throws. Anyone who says “why don’t they just practice the shot” doesn’t pay attention, these guys put in a lot of work on the shot. Pregame and in practice (I’m Los Angeles based), Jordan probably hits 65 percent from the line. At least.

The problem is mental. That can be a tougher hurdle to clear. Maybe taking 19 footers and knocking them down will have Howard feeling more confident at the stripe this season.

But we’re going to need to see it to believe it. Just like we’re going to have to see a rejuvenated Howard in Atlanta before we believe this season will be different from the last few.

Report: Veteran big man Jason Thompson agrees to deal in China

BEIJING, CHINA - OCTOBER 15:  Jason Thompson # 34 of Sacramento Kings in action during the 2014 NBA Global Games match between the Brooklyn Nets and Sacramento Kings at MasterCard Center on October 15, 2014 in Beijing, China. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Lintao Zhang/Getty Images)
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Until this season, Jason Thompson had never been to the playoffs. He spent seven seasons in Sacramento before getting traded to the Warriors last offseason, and then signing with the Raptors midseason when Golden State waived him to make room on the roster for Anderson Varejao. His NBA days appear over, at least for now. International basketball reporter David Pick reports that Thompson has agreed to a deal to play in China.

Since the CBA’s season ends in March, Thompson could theoretically join an NBA team for the stretch run next year. But he didn’t appear to have much interest on the free-agent market this summer.