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Pacers’ playoff-best offense disintegrates in Atlanta

Apr 27, 2013, 10:58 PM EDT

Indiana Pacers v Atlanta Hawks - Game Three Getty Images

Devin Harris needed just 4.5 seconds to slice through the Pacers’ defense for a layup late in the first half, leaving only 1.8 seconds for the Pacers. George Hill launched a desperation heave that obviously missed, but the look was only marginally better than the shots Indiana got most of the game.

The Hawks’ offense came easy enough, and the Pacers forced quick shots to make their offense difficult enough, and now, Indiana’s series lead is suddenly a dicey 2-1 after a 90-69 Game 3 loss today. Since early in the second quarter, Atlanta’s lead fluctuated between 18 and 28 points

The Pacers, despite playing a top-10 regular-season defense, entered the game an NBA-best 117.8 points per 100 possessions. Today, their offensive rating sunk to 70.2.

I suppose the Hawks deserve some credit, making this series as close a series can be through three games, but Indiana just played bad. Despite their well-deserved reputation as a tough team, the Pacers have the worst road record (19-21) of any top-five seed in either conference, and they’ve lost 12 straight in Atlanta. The last time Indiana won there, Stephen Jackson and Al Harrington led the team in scoring.

These new-look Pacers have more talent, but they shot just 27 percent from the field and 16 percent on 3-pointers. Indiana’s backcourt was particularly bad, with guards George Hill, Lance Stephenson, D.J. Augustin, Orlando Johnson and Ben Hansbrough combining to shoot 2-for-25. But the Pacers’ problems weren’t isolated to those five. Indiana finished with as many field goals as turnovers (22).

The Hawks didn’t play great – they shot below 43 percent from the field, below 27 percent on 3-pointers and below 58 percent on free three throws – but they stopped doing all the things wrong that plagued them in the series’ first two games. Al Horford had 26 points, 16 rebounds, two steals and two blocks, which is what he can do when Larry Drew doesn’t foolishly sit him for picking up early fouls.

Ivan Johnson replaced Kyle Korver in the starting lineup, and although Johnson played OK (six points and four rebounds in 14 minutes), the Hawks probably picked the wrong physical player in a switch to a bigger lineup. Petro was the only Atlanta player with a negative plus-minus (-3). The Hawks played much better with Ivan Johnson, who had seven points and seven rebounds and a +21 rating. They were better with even displaced-starter Korver, who was +14.

Atlanta made adjustments and played better, but that wasn’t the story of Game 3. Really, this was about the Pacers just falling apart in a tough environment.

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