The Indiana Pacers limped into the playoffs after a poor last few months of the regular season, but the hope was a first-round series matchup against an Atlanta Hawks team that finished under .500 would be the remedy for the situation. That has proved not to be the case, and the top-seeded Pacers are in danger of elimination when they face the Hawks at Philips Arena on Thursday in Game 6.
Indiana had a chance to take control of the series on its home floor in Game 5 after pulling out a hard-fought win in Atlanta in Game 4. Instead, the Pacers laid an egg, falling victim to the Hawks' torrid three-point shooting in a 107-97 loss. Atlanta knocked down 15 threes in the win and led by as many as 30 points in the second half before holding on late.
Roy Hibbert's mystifying play continued, as the big man didn't tally a single point or rebound in 12 foul-filled minutes. Hibbert was benched in the second half, and it's unclear whether Pacers coach Frank Vogel will stick with him in the starting lineup in Game 6. Backup center Ian Mahinmi also didn't score in 16 minutes of action.
Paul George did his part again, putting up a line of 26 points, 12 rebounds, six assists and six steals. George has been one of the few beacons of light for the Pacers in this series, posting averages of 22.6 points, 11.2 rebounds and 5.2 assists.
Vogel could turn to the rarely used Chris Copeland again in Game 6 after Copeland helped lead the ill-fated charge in Game 5. Copeland can spread the floor offensively and while he's not a good defender, he may be more effective guarding the three-point line than Hibbert or Mahinmi simply because he's more mobile.
The Pacers' struggles down the stretch of the season were well-documented, but losing this series would still be stunning. Indiana is sure not to go down without a strong fight, so the Hawks will have to bring their "A" game to close things out.
Game time: 7 p.m. ET
Location: Philips Arena, Atlanta, Georgia
National TV: NBA TV
Local TV: SportSouth, Fox Sports Indiana
Radio: WZGC-FM, 1070 The Fan