Hawks coach Larry Drew had enough.
After getting dominated on the glass, being forced into a half-court game and allowing Paul George to get his first career postseason triple double, Atlanta headed home with a 107-90 loss and plenty of things to correct before this best-of-seven series resumes Wednesday in Indy.
“I thought we let some calls affect us early, we seemed like we complained the whole game. You can’t do that at this level of play. You just can’t do that,” Drew said. “You’ve got to play through calls and we didn’t do that. Whether we perceive it’s a good whistle or a bad whistle, you have to play through it and we didn’t do that.”
Atlanta didn’t follow the game plan at all.
Drew said the Hawks wanted to run. They wound up with only a 14-12 advantage on the fast break.
He said the Hawks wanted to attack the rim. They were outscored 44-38 in the paint, 19-7 on second-chance points and outrebounded 48-32.
He said they wanted to execute in half-court sets, something Indiana forced by committing most of its 14 turnovers in dead-ball situations.
And, of course, he didn’t anticipate the Pacers going 30 of 34 from the free-throw line while the Hawks were just 7 of 14.
“They were definitely killing us on the offensive rebounds and just playing harder,” Hawks guard Jeff Teague said after scoring 21 points and finishing with seven assists. “They brought a lot of energy to the game. We didn’t match it all today, but we will come back on Game 2 ready.”
Indiana seemed ripe for an upset after losing five of its previous six games.
But the Central Division champs played more like the dominant team they were from mid-December through early April than that one stumbled late.
George was the leader. He followed the best season of his three-year career by opening the playoffs with 23 points, 11 rebounds and 12 assists for only the second triple-double in playoff history for the Pacers. Mark Jackson also did it, on May 13, 1998 against New York.
“I know what the team will expect from me now,” George said. “But, again, I like the pressure”
He can expect to be dealing with even more of it in the near future.
There were plenty of questions after Indiana coach Frank Vogel gave four of his starters – George, George Hill, Roy Hibbert and David West – a three-day break this week. The move meant those four came into the opening game without playing a minute since last Sunday’s loss at New York sealed Indiana’s fate as the East’s No. 3 seed.
The rest definitely helped.
While George went 3 of 13 from the field, he made his first 17 free throws tying Reggie Miller’s single-game playoff mark for best percentage. George missed his 18th and final attempt with 2:35 to go. It was about the only thing that went wrong for the All-Star forward, who helped give Indiana its first 1-0 lead since beating the Pacers beat the New Jersey Nets 90-88 in 2006.
“It was huge for our confidence,” George said. “We got back to playing our style of basketball.”
There was plenty of help to go around, too.
George Hill, who sat out parts of practice Friday and Saturday with an injured left groin, made his first six shots and finished 7 of 10 from the field with three 3-pointers and 18 points. And Roy Hibbert added 16 points and 11 rebounds on a day the Pacers outrebounded Atlanta 48-32 and limited the Hawks to 14 fast-break points.
Vogel couldn’t have designed a better script.
After the Pacers got off to another rocky start by giving up the first six points, they wasted no time charging back.
The Pacers used a 9-0 first-quarter run to take a 19-13 lead, extended it to 34-26 after one and never trailed again.
While the Hawks tried valiantly to rally, cutting the deficit to four late in the second quarter and trimming Indiana’s 15-point lead to eight with 7:23 to go, Indiana never let the Hawks get any closer and eventually pulled away.
“We got back to playing our style of basketball,” George said. “They came out and hit shots, but what we did a great job of was not letting them string some of those baskets together. We kind of ended their momentum and that’s what it’s going to take.”