>> OK, can we talk about the streak now? Before the team headed South (geographically and in performance), Frank Vogel said he didn’t plan to mention the 11-game losing streak in Atlanta because so few players on this roster had played much of a part in it. Well, the streak is 12 now and no one on the active roster has experienced a victory in Philips Arena as a member of the Pacers, so perhaps it could be mentioned. Obviously, this team needs every motivational carrot it can find.
>> I’ve been ragging on Larry Drew, but the Hawks coach deserves some credit for this one. His decision to go with a big lineup seemed to catch the Pacers unprepared. It wasn’t so much that center Johan Petro had a big impact (although he did effectively neutralize Roy Hibbert), it was the matchups at the other frontcourt positions. Josh Smith frustrated Paul George at both ends, and the same was true in the Al Horford-David West duel.
>> Frank Vogel did not agree with that premise. “I thought their disposition was the difference in the game,” he said, “not the different lineup that they played.” Disposition, datposition, all positions got outplayed.
>> The ESPN announcers weren’t on their games, either. Doris Burke referred to Paul George as George Smith, while Mark Jones offered up Clancy (for Sam Young), George Hibbert and Brian Shawn. Oddly enough, they didn’t screw up any of Atlanta’s names. Then again, maybe it was subtle genius on their part, since the Pacers clearly were suffering from an identity crisis.
>> Trailing 54-30 at halftime, the Pacers were the subject of embarrassing speculation by analysts Jalen Rose and Bill Simmons, who chuckled about what Atlanta clubs the players must’ve been in Friday night. So you want to be on national TV?>> Indiana’s 69 points were the third fewest in franchise playoff history, the .272 field goal percentage the second-lowest, and the 30 points at halftime tied the fewest.
>> Each game in this series has been decided in the first quarter. The Hawks jumped out to early leads in Games 1 and 2 but the Pacers responded, took the lead and did not trail after the opening period. The reverse was true Saturday night as the Pacers started 8-1 and promptly imploded. The Hawks finished the quarter 26-6 on their way to a marathon run of 42-10 that included 18 unanswered points while the Pacers shot 3-for-28 and committed nine turnovers.
>> Though Horford had the big statistical night, playoff career highs of 26 points and 16 rebounds, Smith was the difference-maker. Offensively, he used his strength to back down George in the post. Defensively, he used his quickness to crowd George and take him out of rhythm. “If you look at the stat sheet, it was probably Josh’s worst statistical night of the series (14 points, six rebounds, six assists), but he totally changed the game,” said Kyle Korver. “His defense was great. His energy was contagious.”
>> If Smith takes to this radical concept of playing hard, this could be a much tougher series than most of us anticipated.
>> There was no solace to be found anywhere in the box score. West scored 18 but was not a factor. George had 16 points and nine rebounds but committed five turnovers. Hibbert was scoreless in the first half. George Hill and Stephenson combined to shoot 2-for-15. The bench reverted to its usual form, shooting a combined 6-for-33 (.182).
>> As Vogel put it, “Just one of those nights where nobody had it going.”
>> Atlanta is kryptonite to Hibbert. In three games there this season, he has totaled 17 points (5.7) and 17 rebounds (5.7) while shooting 7-for-22 (.318). Hawks starting centers Petro and Zaza Pachulia, meanwhile, combined for 29 points, 32 rebounds and 13-for-20 shooting (.650).
>> Lance Stephenson summed it up nicely. “They were aggressive, they took away our airspace. Nothing was easy for us,” he said. “We’ve got to fight back. … We’ve got to be a unit. We can’t let this game break us and just play smart the next game.”