>> Not to diminish the individual numbers, but this was much more about the team’s commitment to defense than anything else. The Pacers owned the lane, dominated the board (51-28), chased the Hawks off the 3-point line (3-for-14) and limited the visitors to 33 percent shooting. As David West put it: “This is the first time I felt we played legitimate defense in this series.” They snapped a 12-game streak of allowing opponents to score at least 90.
>> West played some pretty legitimate offense, too. He had by far his best game of the series with 24 points on 11-for-16 shooting. He scored 10 in a row and 12 overall in a 15-4 run in the second quarter that turned things around and put the Pacers up 43-35. And when Atlanta threatened to make a run late in the third quarter he scored six in a row to dash any thoughts of a comeback.
>> Interesting story there. In practice Tuesday, Frank Vogel said he was looking at ways to get West better looks. “He waved me off and said, ‘Don’t worry about me coach, I’ll be fine’,” Vogel said.
>> In his career, West has played four Game 5s at home. His averages: 24.8 points, 8.5 rebounds, .606 shooting.
>> Here’s something else the Pacers did consistently for the first time since Atlanta switched to a big lineup: they attacked it with their big men. West and Roy Hibbert (18 points) overpowered Al Horford and Johan Petro (19 combined on 5-for-17 shooting).
>> As quietly as a guy can have 21 points and 10 rebounds, Paul George had his third double-double of the series, hitting seven of eight shots (including both of his 3-pointers). It helped that he didn’t have to chase Josh Smith around all night, thanks to some rotation changes that tweaked the matchups.
>> With George scoring nine, the Pacers opened the second half with an 18-5 run that pushed the lead to 20 and caused the Hawks to unravel. Smith picked up three quick fouls and a technical, and Jeff Teague was hit with a technical for shoving George.
>> Hawks Coach Larry Drew criticized his team for losing its composure and not playing smart. “One compounded the other,” he said, and we got into kind of a me-me-me state.”
>> Vogel shortened the bench, using a three-guard rotation that excluded Gerald Green. He also used Jeff Pendergraph at small forward for the first time all year for the express purpose of putting a big body on Smith, thus freeing George to blanket Kyle Korver.
>> You’ll never guess who was the game’s leading rebounder: Lance Stephenson pulled 12.
>> George Hill was also solid with 15 points and 10 assists, frustrating Teague, who shot 3-for-16 in his worst game of the series.
>> I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the maddening officiating, particularly in a 57-minute third quarter when it seemed as if every possession ended with a whistle. The Hawks shot 19 free throws in the quarter, making 16, but it didn’t do them a lot of good. Neither coach had an issue with the officials afterward. Vogel said his team needed to defend without fouling, and Drew said he thought the game was well officiated.
>> So now the Pacers try, again, to get it done on the road in Game 6 Friday (7 p.m., ESPN2) in Philips Arena. While they’ve been utterly dominant at home, winning three games by 55 points, they’ve been utterly dormant in Atlanta, losing twice by 32. “We have to win down there,” Hibbert said. “We want to close it out.”
>> If both the Pacers and Knicks finish off their respective first-round series in six games, their Eastern Conference Semifinal will begin Sunday afternoon in Madison Square Garden. In which case: here we go again.