Atlanta Hawks forward Paul Millsap (4) attempts a shot and is fouled by Indiana Pacers forward David West (21) in the second half of game six of the first round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at Philips Arena. The Indiana Pacers defeated the Atlanta Hawks 95-88. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports
ATLANTA - David West and Paul George are the Indiana Pacers’ top two players and the duo played like it Thursday. As a result, the top seed in the Eastern Conference will host a winner-take-all game seven.
West and George each scored 24 points, including combining for 21 of Indiana’s 31 fourth-quarter points in a 95-88 victory over the Atlanta Hawks in game six of the first-round series at Philips Arena.
Indiana will host the deciding seventh game Saturday.
Atlanta held a fourth-quarter lead as large as five points, but after West scored four points and George Hill added a lay up, the Pacers led 85-84 with just under two minutes left. Atlanta pulled even when Pero Antic hit 1-of-2 free throws, yet the hosts couldn’t score over the next 1:12 and a bucket by West and a combined 6-for-6 performance from the free-throw line by George and Hill helped Indiana survive.
After hitting 15 of 27 3-pointers in a stunning game five win in Indianapolis, the Hawks made just 25 percent (9 of 35) Thursday and were held to 35 percent shooting overall.
“They’re a good defensive team, we just didn’t make shots that we had,” said Kyle Korver, who was 3 of 8 from three for nine points after a 5 of 10, 16-point performance from behind the arc in game five. “That’s what happens when you shoot a lot of threes: sometimes they don’t go in.”
The final stages of the third quarter belonged to Jeff Teague. Indiana had just taken its largest lead of the night at 57-48 on a beautiful reverse lay up by George, but then Teague, who led all scorers with 29 points, helped pick up George’s fourth foul, then hit two free throws with about five minutes left. That got Atlanta started on a 19-7 run, 12 of the points coming from Teague and two coming when Mike Scott threw down a thunderous dunk over Indiana center Ian Mahinmi, to close the quarter ahead 67-64.
“I thought Jeff was excellent all night,” said first-year Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer. “He knows how important he is to us.”
Lou Williams came off the bench and scored 16 points, including a lay up off a nice backdoor pass from Paul Milsap (16 points, 18 rebounds, five assists) that gave Atlanta a 74-70 cushion. Indiana eventually took the lead back at 77-76 two and a half minutes later on a bucket by Hill, but the Hawks scored eight of the next 10 points to go up five with 3:16 to play.
Neither team could build a second quarter lead of larger than three points until Indiana got buckets from George and West and a pair of Lance Stephenson free throws to go up 41-35 with just under a minute to play.
Williams’ only 3-pointer of the half helped get Atlanta to within 41-39. Just moments after receiving a technical foul during a short altercation with Scott, who also was hit with a technical, Hill hit a shot well beyond the three-point line for the point guard’s only points of the half and the Pacers went into the halftime locker room up 44-39.
Atlanta misfired on its first four attempts from three-point range, but after the fourth miss, DeMarre Carroll corralled the offensive rebound and fed Korver for a three, then Carroll also drained a long ball, part of a 12-0 run that put the Hawks up 15-5 with 5 1/2 minutes to play in the first.
The 10-point cushion was Atlanta’s largest of the quarter. Indiana’s bench brought the top seed back as C.J. Watson hit a pair of jumpers and Chris Copeland knocked down a 3-pointer with 2.6 seconds left that pulled the Pacers to within 22-20 after one.
Atlanta dropped its third consecutive game six at home, which includes a loss to the same Pacers team in an elimination contest a year ago. This year the Hawks, who haven’t been past the first round since 2011 but have already won twice in Indiana in the series, get a game seven to try and rebound.
“I think we need to get to the next game, get our focus,” Budenholzer said of game seven. “We have a lot of confidence in our group and this is the next challenge for us.”
“We know we can win in anybody’s building,” said Carroll.