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(Sunday, April 21st)
Final Score: Indiana 107, Atlanta 90
Indianapolis, IN (Sports Network) - Fueled by a triple-double from Paul George, the Indiana Pacers took the early upper hand in their Eastern Conference quarterfinal series with the Atlanta Hawks by coming through with a 107-90 victory at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
George amassed 23 points, 12 assists and 11 rebounds to lead Indiana to its first Game 1 triumph in a playoff set since 2006. The Pacers' four other starters also scored in double figures, with George Hill contributing 18 points and Roy Hibbert 16 to the near wire-to-wire win.
David West and Lance Stephenson added 13 points apiece for the Central Division champion Pacers, who dominated the Hawks at the foul line to claim the opener.
George did the majority of his damage from the charity stripe, draining 17-of- 18 free throws on the afternoon, and Indiana finished 30-of-34 from the line compared to a 7-of-14 performance from Atlanta.
"I said before this playoff run I'm leaving everything on the floor," said George. "I know as a team what is expected of me now. I want the pressure. I'll do whatever it takes. I don't want to be labeled as a scorer or defender. I want to be [known as] a ballplayer. That's what I really hang my hat on, is a guy who can do a lot of things on the court."
Indianapolis native Jeff Teague paced the Hawks with 21 points and seven assists. Josh Smith had 15 points and Al Horford scored 14 in the loss, though neither was a factor during the second half.
"We need to play a whole lot better," said Hawks forward Kyle Korver. "Obviously, we can't foul them like that and we gave up a lot of offensive rebounds."
Atlanta hit its first three field goal attempts to jump out to a quick 6-0 lead, but the Pacers controlled the action over the remainder of the opening quarter. Hill dropped in five points during a 13-2 run that spurred Indiana to a 23-15 advantage eight minutes in, and the Pacers shot 62 percent for the period to move in front by a 34-26 count at its conclusion.
Hill led the way with 13 points on a 5-for-5 success rate that included a pair of makes from beyond the arc.
A Gerald Green 3-pointer with just over seven minutes left in the second quarter extended Indiana's margin to 11, but Atlanta closed the gap by putting together an 11-4 spurt that trimmed the deficit to 49-45 with 2:36 remaining in the half.
The Hawks trailed by five until George drove the lane and was fouled while converting the layup attempt with 2.7 seconds on the clock. The All-Star forward sank the resulting bonus shot to send the Pacers into the break up 58-50.
Atlanta got to within seven on a Korver triple early in the second half, but back-to-back buckets by West followed by a successful hook shot from Hibbert staked Indiana to a 66-53 lead with 8:37 to go in the third quarter.
The Pacers maintained a double-digit cushion for the duration of the frame, going up by as many as 17 and taking a comfortable 84-69 differential into the final 12 minutes.
"We buckled down," said Hibbert. "We learned from our mistakes in the first half and just played better basketball. In the first game, you try to feel out the opposing team and what type of changes they make."
With Smith and Horford, who went a combined 2-of-8 for four points in the third quarter, both on the bench, Atlanta managed to make a little bit of headway late. The Hawks embarked on a 10-2 run to trail 89-81 after DeShawn Stevenson knocked down a trey with 7:23 left to play.
Atlanta got no closer, however. A 3-point play from West three minutes after Stevenson's basket sent Indiana ahead by a 98-86 score, and the Hawks failed to make a field goal the rest of the way to enable the Pacers to pull away down the stretch.
"I don't think we ran our offense smooth with urgency, like we did in the first half," said Smith. "We were able to move the ball extremely well, share the ball, and I think the ball stuck a little bit (in the second half). When we looked up at the (shot) clock, there was seven seconds left and we had to take a forced shot."
George's triple-double was the second of his career and only the second by a Pacer in the playoffs, with Mark Jackson accomplishing the feat against the Knicks in Game 5 of the 1998 Eastern Conference semifinals ... Indiana had lost three straight playoff series openers since taking Game 1 of a 2006 quarterfinal clash against the Nets ... The teams are meeting in the playoffs for the fifth time overall, but first since Atlanta edged Indiana in a best- of-five opening-round matchup in 1996 ... The Pacers and Hawks split the regular-season series at 2-2, with the home team prevailing each time ... Indiana finished the game with a 48-32 rebounding advantage.
04/21 18:43:15 ET
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