The Indiana Pacers seemed to reclaim a hold on the series against the Atlanta Hawks with a close-fought victory in Game 4, but on Monday night, the Hawks snatched the control back with a massive second quarter onslaught on the way to a 107-97 victory and a 3-2 series advantage.
After some lopsided opening segments in the first four games, the first quarter on Monday night provided some real back and forth between the two clubs. The Hawks came out of the chute with some sloppy offense, committing four turnovers in the first five minutes of game action, and as a result, they trailed by a 12-7 score after a timeout with 6:52 remaining in the first quarter. Atlanta was quick to respond, however, as they rattled off a 7-0 run to reclaim the advantage following the brief break in action, and from there, they were able to battle to a 1-point deficit after 12 minutes.
Frankly, the Hawks didn't play all that well in the early going, but they were able to hang around based on 50% shooting in the first quarter and a somewhat rare rebounding edge. That said, there were plenty of fireworks in the second quarter, and Mike Scott was in the driver's seat. Scott converted four (yes, four) consecutive three pointers, helping Atlanta to a 15-0 run between the end of the first and the beginning of the second, and all told, the former Virginia Cavalier scored 17 points in the quarter and he made all 6 of his shots including 5-for-5 from deep.
As a team, the Hawks were able to extend their lead to a nearly unfathomable 48-27 after a team-wide 29-6 run, and Kyle Korver joined Scott in the assault by knocking down two triples of his own. Shelvin Mack wouldn't be left out of the offensive party, either, as the reserve guard added 13 points in the quarter to help the Hawks score 41 points in the second quarter, which also served as the highest point total that Indiana has allowed this season. Overall, Atlanta finished the half with 66% shooting from the floor and a sparkling 10-for-15 from three after a bit of a slow start from distance, and for good measure, the good guys grabbed 22 of the first 34 rebounds on the night (beating Indy at their own game) and held the Pacers to 43% from the field offensively in route to a 61-40 lead.
The party atmosphere was evident for the fan base as halftime evaporated, but despite the resident uneasiness that every seasoned Atlanta fan feels with a big lead in an important game, the Hawks would explode out of the gate. Korver, Jeff Teague, and DeMarre Carroll teamed up to help lengthen the lead to an almost comical 30-point margin at 80-50 with 7:07 to play in the third quarter, but despite a significant spurt in response for Indiana, the Hawks still held a 20-point cushion as the fourth quarter arrived.
With all of that said, nothing ever seems safe for a seasoned Atlanta Hawks fan (with good reason), and the Pacers climbed within nine at 96-87 after a 37-16 overall run from the home team. The offense stalled to the tune of just one field goal and six points in the first 6+ minutes of the fourth, the defense seemed to let up on shooters, and nothing was going particularly well. Then, Kyle Korver connected on a 27-foot three at the 3:43 mark to calm the collective fears (at least a bit) and from that point, the lead never fell below nine points despite some interesting dynamics. Shelvin Mack knocked down two free throws with exactly a minute to play to put the lead back to 11, and that was likely the final dagger in a huge win.
The aforementioned Mike Scott (17 points on 9 shots) was the biggest story of the night, simply because of the logistics of his explosion, but this was a wholesale team effort. Six players scored in double-figures for Atlanta, including 18 points, 8 rebounds and 4 blocks from Millsap, 16 points (5 for 10 from three) and 9 rebounds from Korver, and 20 points from Mack off the bench. As a group, the Hawks shot 50% from the floor and an incredible 15-for-27 (56%) from 3-point land, and frankly, they needed every bit of it in order to hold on in this one.
Defensively, there were some bright spots that included just 40 points allowed in the first half, but after the break, Indiana did seem to get whatever they wanted at times. Paul George continues to be a problem for Atlanta on that end, and he finished with 26 points, 12 rebounds, 6 assists and 6 steals, but aside from that, the Pacers haven't presented any significant match-up issues, and the embattled Roy Hibbert appeared in only 12 minutes of court time without scoring a point or grabbing a rebound.
The Hawks will look to close out the series in Game 6 on Thursday night, but until then, the glow of this win will shine a bit. Atlanta will (understandably) be quite business-like in their approach with a tall task in finishing off Indiana on Thursday, but control of the series is back in favor of the Hawks, and with a similar performance at home, Atlanta could be bound for round two.
Let's all enjoy this one.