The Atlanta Hawks opened their seventh consecutive playoff appearance in a strong way, downing the top-seeded Indiana Pacers, in their own building no less, by a 101-93 score to take a 1-0 lead in the best of seven series.
The Hawks had a lead for a majority of the first quarter, and allowed the Pacers to come back into things in the second, and the two teams found themselves in a 50-50 game at the half. And that, my friends, is as close as things would get.
Thanks in large part to a 3rd quarter that saw Atlanta outscore the Pacers 30-16, the Hawks ended the 3rd with all the momentum they needed, and was able to ride it out for the victory, winning just their 15th away game of 2014.
The Hawks were lead by 28 points from Jeff Teague and 25 from Paul Milsap, as well as 12 from DeMarre Carroll and Kyle Korver. Pero Antic was the only Hawks starter to not score in double figures, and he ended the night with eight.
The Pacers were lead by Paul George who netted 24 points, and other than that, there wasn’t much else. Also not being productive, for either side, was the bench. Three players combined for 16 bench points for the Hawks and 22 came from the second line of Indiana.
In just about every other category that wasn’t the scoreboard, the Pacers put up better numbers than Atlanta – more offensive rebounds (14 to 9) as well as total rebounds (46 to 42), steals (8-6) and assists (19-13). The Hawks barely out-glassed the Pacers on the defensive end of things (33-32), and the Hawks turned the ball over less (12-15).
This is, obviously, a fantastic win for a Hawks club that has had an interesting ride to the playoffs. But, it’s also a dangerous win – the Pacers know what Atlanta can do, and will come back in game 2 and look for vengeance on their floor.
Having said that, history is on the Hawks side. Never mind the 10-13 record the Pacers finished the season on, but this is the fourth time that an 8-seed has beaten a 1-seed in the first game, and the past two times (2007 saw Golden State knock off Dallas and 2011 had Memphis upset San Antonio), the 8 seed came in to win the series. How magnificent would it be if the Hawks are that third team.
But, first thing’s first. Game two, at the Fieldhouse, on Tuesday. Stay tuned.