After the loss to Indiana in Game 5 in which the Pacers took a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven NBA Eastern Conference series, Atlanta coach Larry Drew referred to the lack of team play by his Hawks in saying, “We got into kind of a me-me-me state.”
But after connecting on just one field goal the entire second quarter, and shooting a meager 6.7 percent from the field during the period – it was more like “not me” for his team in Friday’s Game 6.
Despite going on a 23-9 run to pull to within three points late in the fourth quarter, the Hawks failed to recover from what may well have been the worst quarter in league history as they were eliminated in the opening round of the NBA playoffs by the Pacers, 81-73.
Indiana broke a 13-game losing streak in Philips Arena, and for the second consecutive season the Hawks were unsuccessful in advancing past the opening round of the playoffs. The Pacers move on to face the New York Knicks and former Atlanta head coach Mike Woodson.
“We finally got the monkey off our back in this building,” said Indiana guard George Hill.
Not only did the Hawks experience a shooting drought in the first half when they did choose to shoot against the league-leading defensive unit, but on many occasions were reluctant to even go to the basket – often over-passing or throwing the ball away. Atlanta was 9-for-38 from the field in the first half.
Toward the end of the fourth-quarter rally with just under two minutes left in the game, again Josh Smith and Al Horford passed up driving layups – choosing to go instead to teammate Johan Petro, who missed the 21-foot 3-point attempt from the corner. Horford and Smith would then both miss attempts from 16-, and 24-feet out respectively with about a minute left to play and with the Hawks trailing by six, before the Pacers would tally the last five points to seal the win.
After compiling 34.8 percent shooting in the first quarter, Atlanta was able to stay close enough through four lead changes and six ties. That is, until the disastrous second quarter that proved to be fatal.
“I think the story of this game was our inability to make a shot,” Drew said during the post-game press conference.
Atlanta’s scoring drought began at the 10:35 mark in the second with the Hawks trailing by just one point, 23-22.
They then missed 13 straight shots while failing to drive to the basket for any layups. Eleven of those 13 misguided attempts were from 16 or more feet from the basket. In fact, the Hawks had just four points on the break the entire game – none in the first three quarters.
“We did not get out and run…we were standing at half court,” Drew continued. “A few times we just settled for the jump shot when we knew we had to go to the post.”
But if nothing else, these Hawks showed character by not going down without a fight.
After trailing by as much as 19 points – 52-33 at the 7:31 mark in the third quarter – Atlanta began to rally from behind to cut the lead to nine points by 8:20 in the fourth. And by 2:55, the Hawks deficit was cut to five…then three, 76-73, by 2:19. However, the Pacers were able to hang on long enough for time to expire.
Hill and David West scored 21 points apiece to lead the Pacers, and Roy Hibbert added 17 points and 11 rebounds.
Atlanta was led by Horford’s 15 points, followed by 14 each by Smith and Devin Harris.