Pacers 85, Hawks 78
INDIANAPOLIS (AP)—Reggie Miller knew his team needed a lift.
“Our offense was kind of stale,” said Miller, who didn’t make his first basket until there was 6:06 remaining. “Our ball movement wasn’t as crisp as it had been in the first two quarters. We hit some big shots and came up with some big stops when we had to as well.”
Miller hit consecutive 3-pointers to give Indiana a 68-65 lead with 5:28 left. A third 3-pointer two minutes later put Indiana up by a point, and a six-point flurry from Jermaine O’Neal put the Pacers ahead for good.
O’Neal finished with 26 points and 16 rebounds—his 14th double-double of the season and 13th in the past 16 games. Ron Artest added 23 points, marking the fifth straight game he’s scored at least 20—the longest such streak by an Indiana player this season.
“Reggie is the guy, I keep saying time and time again, will be there when we need him,” O’Neal said. “When you get a little older, you kind of have to pass the torch to the young guys like me and Ron and Al (Harrington), so when you step away from the game, we’ll be fine.”
The win gave the Eastern Conference-leading Pacers (29-11) a 3-0 series advantage over Atlanta this season.
“I was proud of my team,” Hawks coach Terry Stotts said. “They kept battling back against the best in the East on the road. We were in position, it came down to them making shots with two or three minutes to go and we couldn’t get any to drop.”
Miller was able to help the Pacers through a 34.4 percent shooting slump in the second half, including 30 percent from 3-point range.
The Hawks, who halted a three-game losing streak Tuesday night with a win against the NBA champion San Antonio Spurs, gave the Pacers all they could handle in the fourth quarter.
Atlanta opened the quarter on a 10-0 run, holding the Pacers scoreless for more than three minutes. Jason Terry had a pair of baskets, including a 3 that tied the score at 58.
The Hawks made all four shots from the foul line to keep things close, but went without an answer for the one-two punch of O’Neal and Artest down the stretch.
“We just didn’t take care of the ball at the end of the game,” Terry said. “I had a costly turnover, a couple of other guys turned the ball over. We’ve just got to take care of it down the stretch.”
Shareef Abdur-Rahim led five Atlanta players in double figures with 16 points. Terry added 15 points and nine rebounds.
Theo Ratliff, second in the league in blocked shots, had three against Indiana and finished with seven points.
The Pacers used a 7-0 run to break a 17-all tie in a tight first quarter.
O’Neal was slow to start. He missed his first four shots from the field before he got going in the second quarter. With Jamaal Tinsley, Artest and Miller watching from the bench, O’Neal led a team of reserves on an 8-2 run before getting a technical foul with 5:08 left.
Indiana was able to fend off a late Atlanta surge to hold on for a 37-34 lead at halftime.
“We came out, we played tough, we played aggressive, the type of ball we want to play the rest of the season,” Terry said. “We’re not disappointed inour effort, but disappointed with the outcome.”
Pacers forward Jonathan Bender, out all season after left knee surgery, made his season debut when he entered at the start of the second quarter. He went 0-for-5 from the field and finished with two points and five rebounds in 14 minutes. … Stotts was a standout player at Bloomington North High School, earning all-state honors his senior season after averaging 25 points and 15 rebounds. … The Pacers have won nine straight home games against the Hawks and 14 of the past 20 overall. … Hawks forward Stephen Jackson is about to become a father. His fianc?e, Imani Showalter, is expected to give birth totheir first child “any day now,” he said.