>> What was I thinking, picking the Pacers to win in six? Seriously, it’s time to start thinking about a broom job. The Pacers have been the cat, the Hawks have been the ball of yarn, ready to unravel. Atlanta’s biggest mistake has been trying to match Indiana’s physicality, thus the Hawks have tried to play outside of their true identity. The Pacers, as Paul George pointed out, are a naturally physical team, built for the playoffs.
>> Remember when George said before the series that he wasn’t going to shy away from the moment? He’s owned the moment in the first two games, racking up 50 points, 19 rebounds, 15 assists, and five steals. The Hawks tried switching the defensive matchup and assigning the smaller but quicker Devin Harris to him Wednesday but that had no impact. George scored an easy 27.
>> The most surprising development thus far has been the play of the bench. The Pacers had a 38-27 edge in second-unit scoring but that was skewed by the Hawks’ late run in garbage time. For the balance of the game, Indiana’s reserves, primarily Gerald Green (15 points), Jeff Pendergraph (eight points, second boards) and D.J. Augustin (eight points, three assists) were difference-makers.
>> Green’s sprinting dunk to end the third quarter, created by David West’s perfect length-of-the-court lead pass, was the play of the game. The Hawks had scored six in a row to cut the lead to 86-76 with 1.2 seconds left, but it took just 1.1 for West and Green to reverse that momentum and bring down the house.
>> The Hawks picked up three technical fouls and have become utterly obsessed by the officiating, the sign of a team that doesn’t understand why it is losing. “We felt like we didn’t get the good whistle tonight but we can’t let that affect us,” Harris said. “It happened in the first two games and it’s kind of been a problem for us all year long. We’ve just got to focus on our team and focus on ourselves, play through the calls we feel like we’re not getting and that will obviously bring us closer together.”
>> I know Lance Stephenson has tended to be overly dramatic when he crashes to the court, but his fall in the first quarter was legit and his status will need to be closely monitored. He landed hard on his right hip, stayed down (as usual) and needed help to make it to the locker room where he sat out the rest of the half. He started the third quarter but did not return after his first rotation. Not sure yet what his status will be for Game 3.
>> George Hill was pretty good, too, scoring nine of his 22 points in the 15-1 run in the fourth quarter that turned a 95-85 lead into 110-86, prompting both coaches to clear their benches.
>> The Hawks were hamstrung early when Josh Smith picked up his second foul less than three minutes into the game, which sapped his aggression and screwed Larry Drew’s matchups and rotations the rest of the night. He wound up playing 20 minutes and scoring 16 points.
>> While Smith’s foul trouble basically caused the Hawks to implode, the Pacers managed quite nicely despite prolonged absences of two starters: West (20 minutes with foul trouble) and Stephenson (18 minutes due to the injury).
>> For the next couple of days, you’ll hear a lot of blather about how all the Pacers have done is protect their home floor, so they really haven’t gained an advantage. That’s a foul-smelling load. The Hawks are done, they know they’re done and if this one lasts longer than five games, I’ll be stunned.