Pacers rout Hawks in Game 5
INDIANAPOLIS — Frank Vogel made a few simple lineup adjustments and a strong pregame pitch. It was just what the Pacers needed Wednesday night.
Indiana played more physical and more focused basketball than Atlanta, and for the first time in this best-of-seven series played defense the way Vogel has been coaching it all season. Against all that, Atlanta never had a chance.
Veteran David West broke out of a series-long funk to score 24 points, Paul George finished with another double-double and Indiana pulled away for a 106-83 victory to take a 3-2 lead over the Hawks.
“We needed to re-establish our confidence,” said Vogel, the Pacers coach. “We’re still a young team. We needed to re-establish our ability to slow them down.”
Indiana did that and a whole lot more on a night in which it was virtually flawless.
West looked like his old self backing down defenders, then spinning away to hit his trademark step-back shots. George went making 7 of 8 shots from the field, finishing with 10 rebounds and five assists — another strong showing in a series he’s dominated in Indiana’s three wins.
Vogel changed the rotations, keeping some starters with the second unit to add scoring punch. And after posting the best defensive field goal percentage in the NBA this season, the Pacers finally managed to hold Atlanta under 50 percent shooting.
The blowout, Indiana’s third straight at home in the playoffs, even allowed the starters to get a few extra minutes of rest.
If the Pacers end a 13-game losing streak at Atlanta on Friday, they would win this best-of-seven series and advance to the Eastern Conference semifinals for the second straight year. Thanks to Boston, they might not even go into the next series at a substantial disadvantage after the Celtics closed to 3-2 with a stunning 92-86 win at New York.
A few days ago, Indiana didn’t dare contemplate such a possibility with so much at stake against the Hawks. Now, suddenly, everything seems OK, though the home team has won every game.
“It’s the playoffs. It’s good that both teams know how important it is to get home victories,” George said. “In the playoffs, it’s all about what team is going to be dominant on the road. Neither team has really done that yet.”
The Hawks were the latest victim of the home-court curse on another ugly night at Indiana.
They made only four baskets during a 57-minute decisive third quarter.