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Horford dominates as Hawks beat Pacers 90-69, cut playoff deficit to 2-1

The SportsXchange

ATLANTA - Josh Smith didn't want his Atlanta Hawks teammates to put too much pressure on themselves to win Game 3 Saturday night at Philips Arena. Never mind that they'd lost the first two games of the seven-game series to the Indiana Pacers.

"Desperation," Al Horford said. "You don't try to think about that but we were down 2-0."

The Hawks finally played a good, intense game, leading the Indiana Pacers by as many as 28 points on their way to a 90-69 win.

The Pacers lead the seven-game series 2-1. Game 4 is Monday night in Atlanta.

Horford, a team captain who played power forward in Hawks coach Larry Drew's bigger lineup, knew he had to make noise on both ends of the court.

Horford's fast and physical play led the Hawks; he scored 26 points and had 16 rebounds. And when the Pacers' David West picked up a flagrant foul for knocking Horford to the floor on a fast break in the second quarter, that made Horford play only harder.

"I was moving pretty fast," he said. "I got by him and when that happened he brought me down. I was going so fast I didn't have time to catch myself. I literally hit the floor.

"I don't think it was a dirty play. It was a hard foul. It's playoff basketball."

Smith had 14 points and six rebounds. He picked up his fourth foul at 6:07 in the third quarter. Jeff Teague had 13 points, six rebounds and five assists and Devin Harris had eight points and four assists.

Paul George had 16 points and nine rebounds for the Pacers. West had 18 points and six rebounds and Lance Stephenson, while scoring only four points, snared eight rebounds.

"Everything we did tonight was uncharacteristic," George said. "We anticipated them coming out, really trying to pressure us. We really should have been ready for that.

"It was just one of those nights. We made 22 baskets."

Kyle Korver, coming off the bench midway through the first quarter after starting the first two games of the series, hit a 3-point shot at 1:54 that sparked the Hawks, part of a 14-0 run. Their 27-14 lead after the first period marked the first quarter in the series that the Hawks had led.

The Pacers shot 27 percent in the quarter while the Hawks made 52 percent of their shots. The Pacers missed 24 of 27 shots from the first quarter deep into the second quarter. By 8:38 in the second quarter, the Hawks had doubled up the Pacers, leading 36-17. The Pacers managed only three points in the second quarter until D.J. Augustin hit a technical-foul free throw at 6:54.

Down 54-30 after the first half, the Pacers went to Roy Hibbert at the start of the third quarter. Hibbert, scoreless in the first half, jammed in the first two points of the second half, then made two more quick baskets. He finished with eight points and nine rebounds.

The pace slowed noticeably in the third quarter as the Pacers vainly chipped away at the Hawks' lead. Nonetheless, the Hawks finished the quarter up 75-49.

"Probably three or four minutes into the first quarter they broke the game open," West said. "They revved up the pressure and we just didn't handle it."

The Hawks have beaten the Pacers in 11 consecutive regular-season home games in addition to Saturday's playoff game. The Pacers' last win in Atlanta was Dec. 22, 2006 (100-90).

NOTES: After watching his team get muscled off the floor in the first two playoff games against the Pacers, Hawks coach Larry Drew went with a bigger lineup, starting Johan Petro at center and sliding Horford and Smith to the power and small forward positions, respectively. The move put Smith on the Pacers' George. "I told (George) coming into this series," Pacers coach Frank Vogel said before the game, "that he's got one of the biggest mental challenges of any of us because he's got to go in not knowing what his matchup's going to be. It's a challenging mental switch." ... Drew wanted to see two things in Game 3: The Hawks would be more of a physical presence and "The other thing I would love to see is just go out and just play. Just play through everything. Just play through bad stretches, play through officiating. Just go out there and have some fun. Just be who we are and not try to do anything that we're not accustomed to doing." ... As for the game plan, Drew said, "Our game plan is very simple from an offensive standpoint, just getting up and down the floor. And then defensively, we have to be very active. We have to be energetic." ... Vogel, asked before the game if he thought the Hawks would run more, replied, "I don't know if they can run any faster than they've been playing, to be honest with you." ... Vogel wasn't concerned about the lack of production in the first two games from West, who scored 13 and seven points. "I think it's encouraging," Vogel said, "that we've been that effective and we haven't even gotten our best offensive weapon going yet."
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