Things started bad for the Atlanta Hawks and finished worse as they drop Game 1 of their first round playoff series to the Indiana Pacers 107-90. The Hawks were able to hang around early but faded badly in the second half as the Pacers put on a clinic in execution at both ends of the floor.
After a quick start, the Atlanta fell behind midway through the first quarter as shot selection and the inability to keep Paul George off the free throw line became a problem. Al Horford and Jeff Teague did their best in the second quarter to keep things close cutting the lead to just four points at one point but they went into the half trailing 58-50.
Things turned badly for the Hawks in the third who were outscored 26-19 in the period and saw the lead balloon from eight to 15 points. The lead eventually grew to as many as 17 points prompting Larry Drew to empty his bench in hopes that the reserves could dig the starters back out of the hole similar to the way they did against Indiana earlier in the regular season. The reserves were able to cut the lead but by the time the starters came back the Pacers were back in control and coasted home for the win.
Drew's decision to go with the small lineup against the Pacers will be second guessed leading up to Game 2 after Paul George torched the Hawks' defense for a triple-double with 23 points, 11 rebounds and 12 assists. Indiana also piled up a big rebounding advantage as they used their size to their advantage with a 48-32 rebounding margin.
George Hill scored 15 of his 18 in the first half while Roy Hibbert finished with 15 points and eight rebounds. David West and Lance Stephenson finished with 13 points each.
Jeff Teague led the Hawks with 21 points and seven assists. Josh Smith added 15 points, eight rebounds and five assists on 7-15 shooting. Al Horford added 14 points and six rebounds while Ivan Johnson chipped in 10 points and five boards off the bench.
The big stat for the Pacers however was the 30-7 advantage they had in made free throws. In part it may have showed that the Hawks didn't get a favorable whistle from the officials at times but for the most part, particularly in the first and third quarters, Atlanta was content to settle for jump shots while Indiana was on the attack.
In the end this game is just one loss but it was a rehash of many of the problems this team showed coming down the stretch. They appeared to check out in the third quarter so much so that Drew felt the need to turn a playoff game over to his reserves.
Whatever the reasoning for the Hawks to be successful Al Horford is going to have to see much more than 28 minutes of action in a game where he wasn't in foul trouble.