John Bazemore, Associated Press
ATLANTA — The Indiana Pacers packed for an extended trip.
George Hill and David West each scored 21 points and the Pacers withstood a furious Atlanta comeback in the fourth quarter, beating the Hawks 81-73 on Friday night to close out the opening-round playoff series four games to two.
After snapping a 13-game losing streak in Atlanta dating to December 2006, Indiana headed off to New York to take on the Knicks in the first two games of the conference semifinals. The opener is Sunday at Madison Square Garden, an itinerary the Pacers prepared for by packing for a possible six days on the road.
"Quick turnaround," said Indiana's Roy Hibbert, who led a dominating Pacers performance on the boards. "Enjoy tonight on the plane ride, get to New York, get something good in our bellies if stuff is still open."
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 until the Hawks returned to Atlanta and set a franchise playoff record with just nine points in the second quarter on 1-of-15 shooting. The defense broke down in the third, allowing Hill and West to combine for 22 points, and the Pacers built a 65-50 lead going to the fourth.
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. Atlanta didn't score again, setting up what figures to be a tumultuous offseason.
The Hawks have only three players who are definitely under contract for next season — Horford is the lone starter in the group — and it seems likely this will be a much different team next season. Plus, they very well could have a new coach. Larry Drew was in the final year of his contract, and general manager Danny Ferry figures to want his own man in the post as he heads to his second season.
Longtime stalwart Josh 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," Smith said. "I'm not really concerned about that right now."
If that's it for Smith in Atlanta, he missed his final shot.
How fitting on a night when the Hawks made only 26 of 78 (33 percent). Horford led with 15 points, while Smith and Devin Harris finished with 14.
Indiana bullied the Hawks much of the game, overcoming their own poor shooting (32 of 76) by bullying Atlanta in the lane. The Pacers finished with a staggering 53-35 lead on the boards.
Hibbert added 17 points and 11 rebounds. Lance Stephenson also had 11 rebounds.
Over the final two games of the series, the Pacers absolutely manhandled the Hawks on the glass, piling up a 104-63 rebounding edge.
"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."
- Wright Words: BYU QB Taysom Hill talks about...
- Mormon Tabernacle Choir sings University of...
- Morning links: Steve Young quotes Joseph...
- Ute recruit Tyler Huntley posting huge...
- Felt's Facts: Breaking down the Utah high...
- Underrated East Carolina will test BYU's defense
- BYU vs. East Carolina: How to attend, watch,...
- Hawaii trip had benefits for Utah Jazz aside...
- Morning links: 'Big 12' cartoon... 53
- Morning links: Utes in the playoff?;... 46
- Wright Words: BYU QB Taysom Hill talks... 40
- Utah Utes football: The California... 30
- Utes back in the college football... 27
- BYU coaches continue helping players... 22
- Mormon Tabernacle Choir sings... 22
- Underrated East Carolina will test... 19