Apr 24, 2014; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Hawks guard Jeff Teague (0) drives through to the basket through Indiana Pacers forward Paul George (24) and forward Luis Scola (4) in the second quarter in game three of the first round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at Philips Arena. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
The playoffs are a completely different atmosphere than regular season NBA. Teams can be a little tight, and easy buckets are hard to come by. That tight atmosphere was evident early in the Game 3 match-up between the Atlanta Hawks and Indiana Pacers. Both teams looked completely lost in the first half, trying desperately to make outside shots, only to draw iron over and over again. As I said to a friend of mine, I felt like my eyeballs had been assaulted by the terrible basketball that both teams played in the first 24 minutes. Even though both teams scored less than 40 points, and shot less than 40% from the floor, the upside was the Hawks had a one point lead going into the locker room.
What has really been the difference maker in this series thus far is the third quarter. In Game 1, the score was tied at the half, but Atlanta ran up a 30-16 third quarter score sealing the game. In Game 2, Atlanta was actually leading by 4 at the half, but then got completely boat-raced 31-13 in the third quarter which cost them the win. Would the third quarter in this game prove to be as pivotal? The Hawks hoped so as their three ball suddenly came alive. In the first half, the Hawks were shooting terribly from beyond the arc. In the third quarter, the Hawks made 3 triples in the first 6 minutes and went 5/11 overall. That was a big turnaround that got the crowd into the game. When the quarter closed, the Hawks had amassed a 9 point lead.
The fourth quarter started with a tug of war between the bench players on both sides. Elton Brand, Lou Williams, and Sheldon Mack kept the pace by scoring 8 points in the first four minutes. Coach Bud was biding his time with the starters on the bench, so he could set up for the final push. They did the job as the Hawks put the starters back into the game with 8 minutes to go. However, things started to come unraveled quickly for the Hawks. Indy went on a quick 7-0 run to take the Hawks lead down to 4. Just as it looked really bad for the Hawks on a turnover, the Pacers gave it right back, and Kyle Korver nailed a 3 with a foul.
But the Pacers wouldn’t go away. With 6 minutes to go in the game, Indiana was back within 4 points. The Hawks had another gear left, though. Bailed out by a few timely calls, the Hawks kept getting to the free throw line on the bonus. Then came one of the most ridiculous 3 pointers you’re ever likely to see at a game. With less than a second on the shot clock, Jeff Teague heaved a three up from 30 feet with a defender draped on him. It was a prayer to stave off the violation, but it ended up going in! Even more ridiculous, Jeff was out of bounds and they couldn’t review it. Even though the refs actually reviewed it. Nobody understands these review rules in the NBA.
So in the end, the Hawks won a tough game that started slow and snowballed in the second half. Jeff Teague was my player of the game with a double-double, 22 points and 10 assists. Paul Millsap had a great night with 14 points and 14 rebounds, a double-double of his own. And let’s not forget Kyle Korver who had 20 points as well. The starting lineup was amazing for the Hawks, with a combined 75 points. Even though they were beaten on the glass, and beaten on points in the paint, the Hawks still emerged with a 13 point victory. The difference was 3 point shooting, and the Hawks making 30 points from the charity stripe.
Same two teams play again on Saturday night, and the Hawks will go for a possibly 3-1 series lead over the #1 seed in the East. If you can get there, be there!