ATLANTA (TSN) – The Indiana Pacers will try to advance to the Eastern Conference semifinals Friday night when they visit the Atlanta Hawks at Philips Arena.
Home-court advantage has been the storyline in this series. The home team has won each game and each time, the margin of victory has been 10 points or greater.
All nine meetings this season, including the four in the regular season, have gone to the home team.
Indiana moved within one game of the next round on Wednesday with a 106-83 thrashing of the Hawks.
Now, the series shifts back to Atlanta and that is bad news for the Pacers. Not only has Indiana dropped both games down south in the postseason, they’ve dropped 13 in a row in Georgia and haven’t won there since 2006.
“I think psychologically, you can’t look at 13 in a row. You can’t look at we’ve lost two in a row,” explained Pacers coach Frank Vogel. “I think you just got to look at the fact that they play a different brand of basketball at home. They are really, really good at home. Obviously we made some adjustments that hopefully will pour some sand on the fire to what they did to us down there.”
The Pacers played brilliantly on Wednesday. They brought the defensive tenacity that saw them finish in the top of the league in both points allowed and opponents’ field-goal percentage.
In Game 5, Indiana held the Hawks to 83 points, a series-low for Atlanta, and 33 percent shooting.
The Hawks were whistled for five technical fouls.
“It was going to be a situation where we were going to have to earn this win,” said Hawks coach Larry Drew. “In order to do that, we would have to maintain our composure throughout the game. We did not do that.”
Indiana got David West on track in Game 5. The veteran bruiser had 24 points, but the whole Pacers frontline was strong. Most Improved Player Paul George had 21 points and 10 rebounds and Roy Hibbert added 18 points and nine boards.
George Hill enjoyed a double-double with 15 points and 10 assists and Lance Stephenson grabbed 12 rebounds.
The Hawks changed the complexion of the series in Atlanta when Drew inserted Johan Petro into the starting lineup. That move sent Al Horford to the power forward spot and Josh Smith to the three-spot.
The move didn’t pay many dividends in Game 5. Horford and Smith both had 14 points and Petro only managed five points. Devin Harris and Kyle Korver both scored in double figures for the Hawks.
Atlanta is back home and the Pacers know recent history is not on their side.
“We just have to fight. We can’t have those spells on somebody else’s floor,” said West. “In four-six minutes we’re turning the ball over and giving them extra opportunities. We’ve got to be able to go in there and handle that environment and control the basketball game by setting the tone defensively.”
If needed, Game 7 will be Sunday in Indiana.