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NBA Preview from The Sports Network
Saturday, May 3rd (All times Eastern)
(8) Atlanta Hawks (3-3) at (1) Indiana Pacers (3-3), 5:30 p.m.
(SportsNetwork.com) - The Indiana Pacers fought off elimination once and will try to do it again Saturday evening when they host the Atlanta Hawks in Game 7.
The Pacers are fortunate they will have superstar Paul George in the lineup Saturday. During a skirmish between teammate George Hill and Atlanta's Mike Scott in Game 6, George took a few steps on to the court.
Traditionally, that has warranted a suspension, but a slight change in the language of the rule probably kept George away from missing this critical contest.
With their championship hopes on the line, the Pacers gutted out a 95-88 victory at Philips Arena on Thursday night. For at least two nights, Indiana avoided becoming the sixth No. 1 seed to lose to an eight seed in the first round.
"Gutsy win for our guys. Very proud of them for not only playing a good basketball game but overcoming a few furious runs by the Hawks, especially late in the third quarter," said Pacers coach Frank Vogel.
David West tallied 12 fourth-quarter points to lead the Eastern Conference's top seed to victory. West finished with 11 rebounds and six assists to go along with 24 points, two of which came on a contested runner with 46.5 seconds left that broke an 85-85 deadlock.
The clutch basket was part of a 16-4 run over the final three minutes that kept the Pacers alive after dropping three of the first five meetings of the series, and set up a winner-take-all showdown in Indianapolis. West netted eight points during the decisive surge.
"We wanted to extend our season," he said. "I thought we did a great job just closing the show."
George rose to the occasion as well, putting up 24 points and eight rebounds in the season-saving result. Lance Stephenson added 21 points and nine rebounds for Indiana.
George scored nine points during the pivotal fourth quarter, during which the Pacers outscored the Hawks by a 31-21 count.
Atlanta received 29 points from Jeff Teague and a monster 16-point, 18-rebound effort out of Paul Millsap, but couldn't maintain its success from the 3-point line that propelled them to Monday's 107-97 triumph in Game 5.
The Hawks knocked down 15-of-27 attempts from beyond the arc in the previous matchup, but went just 9-of-35 in failing to close out the series.
Atlanta, the lone entry in this year's playoffs with a losing record during the regular season, appeared on the verge of advancing after Teague scored on consecutive possessions to give his team an 84-79 lead with 3:16 to go.
The Hawks turned it over on their next trip, though, after West buried two free throws, and the veteran forward sank a jumper from the elbow before Hill converted a layup off a screen that put Indiana up 85-84 with just under two minutes remaining.
Atlanta's Pero Antic made 1-of-2 from the line to tie it, but the Pacers' Ian Mahinmi pulled down a key rebound off a George miss to set up West's go-ahead basket in the final minute.
George then came up with a big steal of Lou Williams on the ensuing possession and was fouled with 33.8 seconds left. He hit both bonus attempts for an 89-85 lead which quickly swelled to eight points, as the Hawks continued to miss shots down the stretch and the Pacers kept on making free throws.
"Man, we gave this one away," Millsap remarked. "We gift-wrapped it and now we've got to go in and take our gift back."
The Pacers lost a Game 7 in the Eastern Conference Finals last season to the Miami Heat. The Hawks are 2-2 in Game 7s since moving to Atlanta.
05/03 10:34:10 ET