The Curse of Philips Arena lives! Is it a curse? It might as well be...
The Indiana Pacers entered Game 3 of their series against the Atlanta Hawks having not won in Atlanta since 2006, losers of 11 straight, but diminishing the losing streak as a regular season one. Well, it ended up not being a regular season streak after the Pacers were blown out by the Hawks by a final score of 90-69. How the Pacers ended up with 69 points is a minor miracle, finishing the night shooting a balmy 27.2%, up considerably from their sub-24% first half performance.
After jumping out to an 8-1 lead, a lid was placed on the basket, and the proverbial rout was on. Indiana had a collective off night not seen since the long forgotten days of April 14, 2013, when the Pacers had the wheels fall off against the Knicks. But while the Pacers were fighting a 10-point wall in New York, they couldn't bring the game with 20 tonight. Indiana had 22 turnovers, falling 24-13 in points off turnovers, but allowed Atlanta to live in the paint for 50 points.
The Pacers defense has been a real trouble spot in this series, and Indiana can't be expected to live on their offense alone, and it was painfully clear why tonight. Granted, the Pacers, only scoring 69 points, weren't going to win this game with the best defensive effort of all time, but until the Hawks took a late game siesta from the field that plummeted their percentage to 43%, they were for the third time in the series at or above 50% shooting. Indiana was blanked by Larry Drew's lineup changes, and the Pacers were unable to adjust to Atlanta playing bigger at any point tonight.
Frustration boiled up for David West against Ivan Johnson and Johan Petro, Paul George was beaten pretty handily by Josh Smith, and Roy Hibbert's effectiveness was minimized despite a strong start to the second half. So, who was good? That's a tough question. No one was good tonight! Al Horford was good tonight. He had a 26 points, 15 rebound double double, loving every second of his matchup against Tyler Hansbrough, but no one on the Pacers was good tonight.
West's frustrations led to a flagrant foul on him in the first half, laying out Horford after he felt he wasn't getting the fair shake of the whistles. George was the most active of the Pacers, but was 4-11 from the field. Poor shooting was team wide tonight; the back court of Lance Stephenson and George Hill were a combined 2-15 and the bench scored 12 points before their garbage run at the end of the game. The Pacers did rebound well, but they didn't do a good enough job keeping Atlanta off the glass, setting up numerous second chance opportunities for the Hawks.
Indiana shot so poorly they nearly went 30 minutes of game action between back-to-back field goals, so it's possible this is the biggest of outliers for the Indiana Pacers. Of course, the real problem is that they're prone to this sort of thing, and there's a nagging feeling this isn't the last time it shows up. With the series now a series at 2-1 and Game 4 in Atlanta on Monday, it's in somewhat poor taste to look ahead, but imagine the Pacers doing this against New York or Miami. No matter what game, that's a potential series killer.
Game 4 is Monday, and will be an NBA TV/Fox Sports Indiana special, and suddenly there's a whole lot on the line in this series as the Pacers will try and snap a 12-game losing streak in Atlanta, and put this series at 3-1 with the deciding game in Indianapolis rather than force the action back to Atlanta for a sixth game. Tune in! It can't possibly get any worse than tonight!