The Indiana Pacers finally showed they could win in Atlanta.
The Pacers held the Hawks to just nine points in the second quarter, beat up Atlanta on the boards for the second game in a row and wrapped up their opening-round series with an 81-73 victory Friday night.
Indiana, which withstood a furious Hawks comeback in the closing minutes, won the series 4-2 and advanced to face the New York Knicks in the conference semifinals. Game 1 is Sunday at Madison Square Garden.
It was the Pacers' first victory in Atlanta since 2006, snapping a streak of 13 straight losses that included Games 3 and 4 in this series.
"I'm very proud of our guys to come in here, a tough place to win,'' coach Frank Vogel said. "A particularly tough place for us to win. It's good to end that streak. But more importantly, it's good to advance and show the type of toughness you need to make a deep playoff run. To win with defense and rebounding, that's been our identity all year, and that was the key to the last two victories.''
The Hawks went through an absolutely brutal stretch from early in the second quarter to nearly midway through the third, in which they did not actually put the ball in the hoop.
In the equivalent of more than a quarter - 15:43 to be exact - Atlanta went 1 of 21 from the field, the only basket awarded to Devin Harris on a goaltending call against Roy Hibbert.
At a time when the Hawks needed one of their best performances of the season, they produced one of their worst. They were 1 for 15 shooting in the second - 6.7 percent - and the nine points set a franchise playoff low for that quarter.
"I wouldn't have believed it,'' said Josh Smith, who, like many of his teammates, might've played his last game in a Hawks uniform. "We just couldn't get it going offensively.''
George Hill and David West each scored 21 points to lead the Pacers, while Hibbert chipped in with 17 points and 11 rebounds. Lance Stephenson also had 11 rebounds.
Indiana dominated the boards, 53-35, which helped overcome its own poor shooting (32 of 76, 42 percent). In the final two games of the series, the Pacers absolutely manhandled the Hawks on the glass, piling up a 104-63 rebounding edge.
To their credit, the Hawks showed plenty of heart, slicing Indiana's lead to 76-73 on Al Horford's dunk with 2:13 remaining.
But the comeback fizzled. Horford's slam, it turned out, was the final basket of the season.
New York finished off the Celtics 88-80 shortly after the horn sounded at Philips Arena. The Pacers were certainly glad they didn't have to return to Indianapolis for a decisive game against the Hawks.
"It's nice to be able to get it done here,'' Hibbert said. "We showed a lot of resolve when the other team made their run.''
The home team had won every game in the series until the Pacers built a 19-point lead in the third quarter, when Hill and West combined for 22 points, and held on at the end.
For the Hawks, it figures to be a tumultuous offseason.
Atlanta has only three players who are definitely under contract for next season - Horford is the lone starter in the group - and there could be a new coach, too. Larry Drew is in the final year of his contract, and general manager Danny Ferry figures to want his own man on the bench as he heads to his second season.
Smith, an Atlanta native who has played for the team ever since he was drafted out of high school eight seasons ago, is among those heading into free agency.
"There's plenty of time to think about what the future presents,'' he said. "I'm not really concerned about that right now.''
If that's it for Smith in Atlanta, he missed his final shot, a 20-footer clanking off the rim.
How fitting on a night when the Hawks made only 26 of 78 (33 percent). Horford led with 15 points, while Smith and Harris finished with 14.
The Hawks couldn't play much worse than they did in the second quarter. They showed little energy. They settled for some truly awful shots on the perimeter. They missed on those rare times they did get a decent look.
Kyle Korver made the Hawks' only basket of the period on a jumper with 10:35 left. After that, they missed their last 13 shots before heading to the locker room to a round of boos from the home crowd.
If not for Indiana having its own offensive issues - the Pacers made only 36.6 percent (15 of 41) - the game would've been a blowout. As it was, the Hawks trailed just 37-29.
Atlanta's woes shifted to the defensive end in the third. The Hawks continually got lost on switches, at one point leaving Hill all alone for a 3-pointer. He knocked down the shot and Harris looked around, his arms in the air wondering what was happening to his team.
While clearly seeming to sense his three-year run in Atlanta was over, Drew said he was "really, really proud'' of a team that many felt would have trouble just making the playoffs after trading away All-Star Joe Johnson and bringing in a bunch of guys in the final year of their contracts.
Even the coach knew he was a lame duck, having the option on his contact picked up last summer but not getting an extension.
"When you've got 11 or 12 guys on one-year deals, and the coach is in his last year, it could've gone either way,'' said Drew, who has led the Hawks to three straight playoff appearances but couldn't get out of the first round the last two. "We hung in there and stuck with it.''
The Indiana Pacers finally showed they could win in Atlanta.
Hrdlicka, Teter pour ‘heart’ into Zebra soccer program
For the past four years, Claremore High School seniors Katelin Teter and Nick Hrdlicka have represented the ‘heart and soul’ of the Lady Zebra and Zebra soccer programs.
The soccer duo will join seven other seniors on Friday night for Homecoming against Collinsville at Lantow Field.
9 straight for Lady Zebras
Claremore sophomore forward Bailey Steckline got the ‘hat-trick’ plus one Tuesday night in the Lady Zebras’ 10-0 win over Tulsa Memorial at LaFortune Stadium.
Steckline tallied two goals in the first half, and added two more in the second to complete her impressive night.
Tulsa Memorial holds off Zebras, 2-1
Tulsa Memorial scored a pair of first-half goals to steal the momentum away from the Claremore Zebras, as well as the 2-1 win Tuesday night in Metro Lakes Conference action at LaFortune Stadium.
BASEBALL: Whatley, Howe power Zebras past Tahlequah
Claremore’s Matt Whatley has proven over the past four years that he’s one of the toughest outs in the Metro Lakes Conference.
On Tuesday, Whatley went 3-for-4 with two singles and a triple while sparking the Zebras to a 12-2 win over Tahlequah in five innings at American Legion Park.
BASEBALL: Dewey takes pair from Sequoyah
It’s very difficult to win when you can’t score.
Class 4A third-ranked Dewey blanked homestanding Sequoyah 7-0 and 2-0 in a district doubleheader on Tuesday, improving to 21-3 with a dominating two-hit pitching performance in the opener and a four-hitter in the nightcap.
SOCCER: Sequoyah topples No. 15 Catoosa, 1-0
Sequoyah boys soccer coach Bob Campbell had one phrase to sum up his feelings following the Eagles’ game with 15th ranked Catoosa at home Tuesday night.
“We’re in the driver’s seat.’’
Alex Bourgeois scored late in the first half and Sequoyah made it stand up for a 1-0 victory over the Indians in a showdown for the district lead.
Jackson sprints Zebras to 1st place at OBU Relays
Claremore senior sprinter Tyler Jackson felt the need for speed Wednesday afternoon at the Oklahoma Baptist University High School Invitational.
Jackson notched a pair of first-place victories in the 200-meter dash and the 400-meter dash to help Claremore earn 130 points for top honors.
BASEBALL: Arkansas Tech roughs up ‘Cats
The Rogers State University baseball team had a disappointing finish in its home finale as No. 12-ranked Arkansas Tech blanked the Hillcats 11-0 Tuesday evening in non-conference action from the Diamond Sports Complex.
SEC SOFTBALL: Hogs' Wallace ties SEC walks record in 7-5 loss to Kentucky
The University of Arkansas softball team lost to No. 10/8 Kentucky by a 7-5 score Saturday evening at John Cropp Stadium in Lexington. In the loss, junior Devon Wallace tied the SEC career walks record with the 184th free pass of her career. The Razorbacks are now 25-22 overall and 3-14 in SEC play.
SEC BASEBALL: Hogs drop Game 2 to Vanderbilt, 2-1
The Arkansas baseball team (24-16, 8-9 SEC) mounted a late rally Saturday evening against No. 11 Vanderbilt (29-11, 8-9) but fell 2-1 to the Commodores at Baum Stadium.
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