George's big game leads Pacers past Atlanta 107-90
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Paul George scored 23 points and recorded his first playoff triple double, leading Indiana past Atlanta 107-90 for a 1-0 lead in the Eastern Conference series.
George made just 3 of 13 shots but was 17 of 18 from the free-throw line, had 11 rebounds and 12 assists. George Hill added 18 points despite playing with a left groin injury. It's the first time since 2006 that the Pacers have opened a playoff series with a win.
The best-of-seven series resumes Wednesday at Indy.
On Sunday, the Central Division champs played more like the team that was contending for the No. 2 seed rather than the one stumbling to five losses in its previous seven games.
Atlanta was led by Jeff Teague with 21 points and Josh Smith with 15.
The Pacers weren't sure what to expect after four starters — George, Hill, Roy Hibbert and David West — took a six-day break from game action.
All that rest appeared to help the struggling Pacers get back in sync. They took advantage on the glass with a 48-32 advantage, forced Atlanta to play a half-court game instead of allowing the Hawks to run and were nearly flawless at the free-throw line. Indiana made its first 24 free throws, a streak that ended when Lance Stephenson missed the second of two shots in the final minute of the third quarter. The Pacers finished 30 of 34 from the line, compared with 7 of 14 for Atlanta.
Things still got off to the rocky start Indiana has become accustomed to over the past two weeks.
Atlanta scored the first six points. Unlike those other six games, the Pacers turned things around fast.
Following a simple game plan of limiting turnovers to prevent the Hawks from running away on fast breaks, the Pacers took control with a 9-0 run that gave them a 19-13 lead. By the end of the first quarter, Atlanta was in a 34-26 hole, and for the first time in seven games, Indiana did not have to dig itself out of a deficit of 20 or more points.
The Hawks tried valiantly to rally, cutting the deficit to 49-45 in the second quarter when Indy native Jeff Teague made the second of two free throws with 2:36 to go.
Indiana answered by closing the half on a 9-5 mini-run, getting a breakaway dunk from Stephenson and a three-point play from George in the final 31 seconds to make it 58-50 at the half.
The Pacers opened the third quarter on an 8-3 run, extended the lead to 84-69 and didn't allow the Hawks to get closer than eight the rest of the way over the last 12 minutes.
Notes: Hill sat out the last part of practice Friday and Saturday but started the game by making his first six shots, including 2 of 2 from 3-point range, and going 1 of 1 from the free-throw line. ... The Hawks dropped to 0-3 this season at Indiana.... This is only the fourth time these teams have met in the playoffs. Atlanta holds a 2-1 advantage and won the last postseason matchup 3-2 in 1996. ... Indiana limited the Hawks to just 14 fast-break points. ... Hibbert played with the phrase "B Strong" written on his shoe.