INDIANAPOLIS -- After forcing a Game 7 with a Thursday night victory in Atlanta, the Eastern Conference's No. 1 seeded Indiana Pacers wondered about the status of leading scorer and forward Paul George and struggling center Roy Hibbert.
After losing twice at home in the series with Atlanta and having had to win Thursday and Saturday to avoid elimination, Indiana finally dealt with the Hawks' barrage of 3-point attempts, including an NBA record 44 -- they made only 11 -- in the seventh and deciding Game.
In Games 6 and 7 combined, the Hawks made 20 of 79 shots from 3-point range. Atlanta, which got 19 points from guard Kyle Korver and 15 points and 17 rebounds from forward Paul Millsap on Saturday, also was outrebounded 55-38 in the decisive Game.
"A little bit of both," George said. "At some point, something had to give as far as them having legs to make jumpers. We grinded them down so much throughout this series. When they got to Game 7, those jump shots just weren't falling for them. But credit them. They can shoot the ball."
"It was huge," George said. "He got locked in after the start he had offensively. When Roy is locked in offensively, his defense is off the charts. That's when we know he is special. Tonight, he was very special for us, which is great because of everything he has been going through. He stayed with it."
The Pacers showed flashes of the team that dominated the East during the season's first three months, using a 7-0 run to close the first quarter and lead 24-23 and then using an 18-4 burst to close the second quarter in building a 47-36 advantage.
George had a 16-point first half, Stephenson added 10 during the pivotal first 24 minutes and Hibbert added nine points and five rebounds before intermission when Indiana dominated the rebounding category 27-13.
Korver scored 12 first-half points, including a rare four-point play that gave the Hawks a 32-29 lead with 9:34 remaining in the second quarter. But that is when Indiana responded with the key 18-4 run that included 10 points from George.
The Pacers continued to apply the pressure in the third quarter, taking a 57-40 lead on George Hill's three-point play at the 8:10 mark. Indiana's advantage was 62-45 when the Hawks mounted another charge, outscoring the Pacers 18-9 to close the period and pull to within 71-63 with 12 minutes to go.
"It's not easy playing a team that shoots 44 3-pointers," Vogel said. "It's not easy defensively to guard that kind of lineup, especially when 18 of the 3s they took were by their big guys. They had us spread out and scrambling, and our big guys really had a tall task. But they rose to the challenge, and our rim protection was exceptional."
"I think it is always important to credit the defense when we do not shoot well, but we missed some chances in transition and we missed some good looks from 3," Budenholzer said.
NOTES: In NBA history, the home team has a 92-23 record in Game 7s. ... Certainly, Indianapolis loves its Pacers, but Atlanta has a strong Indianapolis flavor. Hawks guard Jeff Teague is a graduate of Indianapolis Pike High School. Guard Shelvin Mack played college ball at Butler, only a few miles north of Bankers Life Fieldhouse ... The Hawks are 50-3 this season when leading entering the third quarter. Indiana took a 47-36 lead into the locker room in this Game 7. ... This marks the sixth time Indiana and Atlanta have met in a playoff series. The Pacers won three of the first five and Atlanta won in 1986-87 and again in 1995-96. ... Saturday was the first time Indiana hosted a Game 7 in any playoff series.