Indiana Pacers backup center Ian Mahinmi found himself on the business end of a posterization by Atlanta Hawks forward Mike Scott during Indy's Game 6 win on Thursday. With the Pacers hosting Game 7 and fighting for their postseason lives on Saturday, Mahinmi wasn't about to be victimized again, much to the chagrin of hard-charging Hawks point guard Jeff Teague:
The thunderous at-rim rejection blew the roof off Bankers Life Fieldhouse, capping a strong second quarter that saw the Pacers hold the Hawks to just 13 points on 4-for-20 shooting en route to taking a 47-36 lead into intermission.
Mahinmi didn't make a monstrous impact on the stat sheet — just one point, two rebounds, two blocks and an assist in 14 minutes of floor time — but his block helped the Pacers keep momentum heading into halftime rather than mitigating a strong start and giving the Hawks some life going into the final two quarters of the series.
Frank Vogel's club ran its lead as high as 18 in the third quarter, but the Hawks came back, briefly rediscovering their shooting touch in the late third and early fourth to draw within nine points just after the start of the final stanza. The Pacers pulled away, though, with Paul George (eight of his game-high and playoff-career-high 30 points in the fourth) and Lance Stephenson (four of his 19 points and five of his 14 rebounds in the last 12 minutes) giving them just enough breathing room to finish off a 92-80 win that gave the Pacers a 4-3 series victory and advanced them to the second round, where they will take on the Washington Wizards.
It wasn't a dominant performance, but after a harrowing couple of weeks that saw the top-seeded Pacers struggle with their very identity and the prospect of completing one of the worst midseason collapses in NBA history, they've survived and advanced. Hopefully, this will help team president Larry Bird feel a bit better about his team's makeup, and help Pacers fans feel a bit stronger about their team's chances of making it back to the Eastern finals.
OK, cool. Everything's looking up!
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