After struggling offensively in Games 3 and 4, the Indiana Pacers turned to their frontcourt in a pivotal Game 5 at home against the Atlanta Hawks. David West, Roy Hibbert and Paul George delivered, setting the tone early and helping the Pacers nab a 106-83 victory and a 3-2 series lead.
West scored 24 points on 11-16 shooting and Hibbert had 18 points, with the two big men combining for 30 in the first half alone. Hibbert did a lot of his damage from the free-throw line, making 12-14 from the charity stripe. George had 21 points on 7-8 shooting while also grabbing 10 rebounds. The Pacers shot 50.7 percent from the field and also dominated the glass, winning the rebounding battle 51-28.
Josh Smith and Al Horford both had 14 points to lead the Hawks, who shot just 33.3 percent from the field. Smith battled foul trouble all game long and went just 5-16 in 26 minutes. Jeff Teague also struggled mightily after turning an ankle in the first quarter, finishing with just seven points on 3-16 shooting. Atlanta was able to stay within striking distance for a good portion of the game thanks to free throws, as they went 30-37 from the foul line. But the Hawks were never able to seriously threaten and the Pacers wound up taking just two fewer free throws.
Both teams actually got off to strong offensive starts, with the Pacers coming out of the gates especially hot. Indiana made seven of their first eight shots from the field, and George was on triple-double watch with five points, three rebounds and three assists midway through the first quarter.
The Hawks were able to stay close with a 6-of-10 start, and they were able to make a bit of a run once the Pacers cooled off. Indiana missed missed their last eight shots of the quarter and had some issues taking care of the ball, coughing it up eight times. Atlanta capitalized with eight points off those turnovers, taking a 22-21 lead after one despite 10 points and five rebounds from Hibbert and a serious disadvantage on the glass.
The second quarter started out as a back-and-forth affair, and the Hawks held a slim lead when Smith went to the bench with two fouls with 6:48 left in the half. That's when West went to work, taking over the game down low and helping the Pacers take control of the game. West scored 10 straight for the Pacers at one point and had 12 overall in the quarter.
Hawks coach Larry Drew gambled by leaving his star on the bench for the remainder of the half, as Smith had 11 points and was somewhat effective guarding West. While the Pacers never stretched their lead to double digits, they were able to go up by as many as nine before settling on a 50-43 lead at the break.
The Pacers carried over their momentum from the end of the second quarter to the third quarter, pushing their lead out to 13 within the first few minutes. Smith picked up three more fouls in the process, going to the bench with five with just over seven minutes left in the quarter. The Indiana lead ballooned to 20 with Smith on the bench as Atlanta went cold from the field. Things also got a bit chippy, with the Hawks picking up two technicals and the Pacers picking up one as well.
The Hawks were able to close the 20-point gap to 12 at one point thanks to their ability to get to the line, as they went 16-19 from the charity stripe in the third quarter. However, Atlanta just could not get enough stops, going into the fourth quarter down 14. George Hill had 11 points in the quarter for Indiana.
The Pacers cruised to victory in the fourth, setting up a potential clincher in Atlanta on Friday. The home team has won every game in the series, so Indiana will look to buck that trend in order to avoid a Game 7.