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.