Smith helps Hawks even up with Pacers
by Lang Greene, USA TODAY Sports
ATLANTA — The Indiana Pacers were seemingly in control of their first round matchup versus the Atlanta Hawks after protecting their home court with two blowout victories to take a 2-0 first round series lead.
But what a difference a week makes.
The Hawks evened the best-of-seven series 2-2 Monday night by defeating the Pacers 102-91. With the loss the Pacers have now dropped 13 consecutive contests at Philips Arena and the momentum they once owned is now clearly residing with the upstart Hawks.
The majority of the Pacers’ early series success was due to their ability to control the rebounding battle and the dominance of All-Star forward Paul George on the wing.
The Pacers outrebounded the Hawks 95-73 in the series’ first two games, while George rolled to averages of 25 points, 9.5 rebounds and 7.5 assists.
However, the Hawks managed to once again close the Pacers’ margin on the boards in game four and also held George to a workmanlike 21 points.
For the second straight game Hawks head coach Larry Drew went with a bigger starting lineup starting veteran Johan Petro at center, which allowed Al Horford to play power forward and Josh Smith to match up and defend George at small forward.
Much like game three on Saturday night the Pacers struggled to find a rhythm offensively versus the Hawks’ revamped lineup and shot less than 40% from the floor.
Smith posted 29 points and 11 rebounds while Horford had 18 and five.
The Hawks raced out to a 57-40 lead at halftime but managed to score just 12 points in the third quarter as the Pacers cut the lead to ten entering the final period. The fourth quarter was a back and forth affair but a pair of late game three-pointers by Smith and veteran forward Kyle Korver stifled the Pacers’ momentum.
The series returns to Indiana for Game 5 on Wednesday night.
Lang Greene writes for HOOPSWORLD.com, a USA TODAY Sports Media Group property.