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.
'Twice as Nice'
When it comes to the 3A State Tournament and Oklahoma City, the Verdigris High School basketball teams are a household name.
Head coaches Randy Upshaw and Mike Buntin lead their programs back to the 'Capitol City' this week for a chance to hoist the coveted 3A state championship on Saturday night at the Big House.
Cards fly into 3A State Tournament
Verdigris junior guard Cade Upshaw lives for March Madness.
The 5-foot-10 sharp-shooter overcame a sluggish performance in a loss to Tahlequah Sequoyah to bounce back for a 20-point outing in the Cardinals’ 72-42 win over Antlers Saturday evening in the Class 3A Area Tournament at Checotah Event Center.
CLASS 4A AREA TOURNEY: Vinita eliminates Inola
Vinita used an 18-point third quarter — highlighted by the sophomore leadership of Carsyn Spurgeon — and converted 21-of-34 free throws to notch a 61-55 win over the Inola Lady Longhorns Saturday night in the Class 4A Area Tournament.
‘Soaring to State’
In the hometown of Carrie Underwood, Verdigris senior point guard Baileigh O’Dell proved to be Oklahoma’s ‘Basketball Idol’ in Class 3A Girls Basketball.
The 5-foot-8 floor general put the No. 4-ranked Lady Cardinals on her shoulders and carried Verdigris back to the the state tournament with the 53-40 win over No. 5 Tahlequah Sequoyah Friday night in the Area Championship at the Checotah Event Center.
CLASS 4A AREA TOURNEY: Stilwell advances to State
A jam-packed, vocal crowd — aided by the control of several Claremore Police officers — witnessed Stilwell’s come-from-behind 57-51 win over Harrah Saturday night in the must-win game of the Class 4A Area Tournament at the Claremore High School Gymnasium.
MLB: Furcal mounting comeback with Miami Marlins
Coming off surgery to his throwing elbow, Rafael Furcal showed the Miami Marlins he can still deliver a sales pitch.
After sitting out the 2013 season, the 36-year-old infielder met last fall with Marlins executives Mike Hill and Dan Jennings and convinced them he could be their second baseman this year.
NFL: Redskins, Cowboys released from salary cap jail
When the Washington Redskins were placed in salary cap jail by the NFL, Kedric Golston had to say goodbye to his best friend on the team.
For the past two years, the Redskins and Dallas Cowboys - otherwise rivals to the bitter end in the NFC East - have been constrained by a much-disputed ruling limiting how much money they could spend on players.
NFL: Jets release WR Santonio Holmes after 4 seasons
Tone Time is over for the New York Jets.
The Jets parted ways with wide receiver Santonio Holmes on Monday, cutting the talented but injury-plagued playmaker after four seasons.
The move, which had been expected, saves the Jets $8.25 million, which Holmes was due to make as his base salary this season. He was also scheduled to have a $10.75 million cap number, a lofty total for a one-time Super Bowl MVP who has struggled with injuries and inconsistency the last two seasons.
NFL: Seattle re-signs DE Michael Bennett
Free agent defensive end Michael Bennett is returning to Seattle after agreeing to a multi-year deal with the Super Bowl champion Seahawks.
Terms of the contract were not immediately available on Monday. Bennett was considered one of the top free agents in the NFL after a breakout season with the Seahawks where he led the team in sacks and proved a versatile option as a defensive end and defensive tackle.
High School Basketball State Tournament Brackets
The Oklahoma High School Basketball State Tournaments will get under way this week in Oklahoma City and the Tulsa-Metro Area.
Below is a listing of the Class 3A-6A State Tournament Pairings.
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- 'Twice as Nice'