Jeff Teague scored a playoff career-high 28 points and Paul Millsap added 25 as eighth-seeded Atlanta rolled past top-seeded Indiana 101-93 on Saturday night, taking a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.
The Hawks ended an eight-game road losing streak in the playoffs, which dated to May 2011. Game 2 is Tuesday in Indianapolis.
Indiana, which spent the whole season working to get home-court advantage in the playoffs, wasted no time in giving it right back with a dismal third quarter. Paul George finished with 24 points and 10 rebounds.
Atlanta opened the third quarter on an 8-0 run, breaking a 50-50 tie, then pulled away when Teague scored nine points in a 14-0 run that made it 74-58 with 4:08 left in the quarter. Indiana couldn’t get closer than eight the rest of the way.
It was a fitting twist to open the best-of-seven series.
Indiana played fast and energetic in the first half, playing more like the team that was so good over the first half of the season. Then in the second half, the Pacers reverted to their recent script of being unable to make shots and get defensive stops when they needed them most. The Pacers were just 5-of-19 from the field in the third quarter and were 15-of-41 in the second half.
Atlanta took advantage of those struggles, becoming the first team to beat the Pacers on their home court twice this season and stealing the win they needed. It was the first time the Hawks won a postseason road game since the first game of the 2011 Eastern Conference semifinals at Chicago.
Nobody was better than Teague, who repeatedly blew through open lanes because the Pacers’ defense was spread out by the Hawks’ 3-point shooters.
Teague was 9-of-19 from the field with five assists and three rebounds. Millsap had eight rebounds.
With 30 3-point attempts, the Hawks broke their franchise playoff record for 3-point attempts with 30, and the 11 3s they made tied the second-highest playoff total in franchise history. Both records were set in a 26-point loss to Orlando on May 10, 1996, when Atlanta went 12-of-27 from beyond the arc.
They didn’t have any trouble pulling out a win with those totals Saturday.
An Indiana turnover in the closing seconds of the first half allowed Atlanta to tie it at 50 on a buzzer-beating putback, and it was all Atlanta after that.
The Hawks quickly jumped to a 58-50 lead early in the third, and when the Pacers rallied to get within 60-58, Teague and Millsap took over.
Millsap opened the decisive run with two free throws. Teague followed that with a driving layup, his only 3 of the game, another layup and two free throws. And when Millsap closed the run with a three-point play, the Pacers trailed 74-58.
They didn’t get within single digits again until Lance Stephenson’s 3 with 33.6 seconds left made it 99-91. But Atlanta closed it out at the free-throw line.
( Courtesy The Associated Press & NBA ……. Source …… Our Freelance Sport Contributor in The United States )