Hawks star Josh Smith, the team's soon-to-be prized free-agent who likely played his final game in Atlanta uniform Friday, walks off the floor with his head down after losing, 81-73, in Game 6 to the Pacers.
ATLANTA -- The Indiana Pacers brought the energy and the inside game to Game 6, beating the Atlanta Hawks 81-73 Friday night at Philips Arena to close out their first-round playoff series four games to two.
The Pacers now advance to the Eastern Conference semifinals to play the New York Knicks, who eliminated the Boston Celtics on Friday night.
Roy Hibbert broke through the mental barrier of a Pacers’ winless streak in Atlanta that had reached 13 games until Friday night. Hibbert scored 17 points and grabbing 11 rebounds.
Indiana’s George Hill had 21 points and seven rebounds, and David West added 21 points -- 10 in the third quarter -- and eight rebounds. Lance Stephenson compiled eight points, 11 rebounds and six assists.
The Hawks’ co-captains, Al Horford and Josh Smith, each had only four points at halftime. Horford finished with 15 points and seven rebounds while Smith ended with 14 points and nine rebounds. Devin Harris scored 14 points and Kyle Korver added 12 points.
Hawks coach Larry Drew met separately with Jeff Teague Thursday, impressing upon him that scoring was only part of his role. Drew urged Teague to be aggressive, but Teague was unable to produce, finishing with 10 points and only two assists.
In a sluggish second quarter, the Pacers mustered 16 points on 7-for-22 shooting. The Hawks scored only nine points on 1-for-15. The crowd was booing as the Hawks missed open shot after open shot.
The Pacers went to the locker room at halftime up 37-29. The eight-point lead was the largest either team had had at halftime as the visiting team.
The Pacers had to have been pleased to be up 21-20 after the first quarter. Earlier in the series, the Hawks had made runs at the start of the second quarter in Games 3 and 4.
But on Friday, the Hawks couldn’t buy a basket. They went scoreless from 10:52 to 5:08 in the period. Much had to do with the Pacers, who kept the Hawks’ transition game in check by easily beating Atlanta back on defense.
The Hawks also missed their first two shots of the second half, finally scoring on a goaltending call at 9:38 in the third quarter.
The Pacers were on a 19-4 run halfway through the quarter. Drew was imploring his players. “This is gut-check time!”
But the Hawks had nothing and the Pacers built a 19-point lead.
To their credit the Hawks didn’t throw in the towel, creeping back to trail 69-58 at 9:10 in the fourth quarter. Suddenly, they awoke and narrowed the gap to 73-68 on a 16-4 run with 4:02 left in the game.
The Hawks got as close as 78-73 with 47 seconds left.
NOTES: Drew said before the game that the adjustments the Pacers made in Game 5, which Indiana won 106-83 on their home court, didn’t affect his team. “We just have to be better,” Drew said, “at some of the things we need to do.” … Drew said he had emphasized to his players not to put too much pressure on themselves, not to look ahead to a Game 7 on the road and give all of their attention to Game 6. “Game 7 is not important right now,” he said. Drew couldn’t recall ever having been part of a series where the home-court advantage was so pronounced. “That’s why home court is so important,” he said. “You play with a little more juice, I think.” … Pacers coach Frank Vogel had no adjustments to announce before the game. “In terms of things the series hasn’t seen yet,” he said, “we’re probably beyond that.” What he was happiest about, he said, is that “I think our guys are finally understanding how to guard them. It took a couple games to get there, obviously had to make some adjustments when they made their adjustments. Now it’s about doing it.” … Vogel packed three suits for the trip and told his players to pack for six days. “You asked me if there was a psychological move to tell the team to pack for six days,” he said. “It’s practical.”
Knicks finish off Celtics
BOSTON - Despite a valiant comeback try by the Boston Celtics, both in the series and the game, the New York Knicks are in the second round of the NBA playoffs for the first time since 2000.
The Celtics, who rallied from an 0-3 deficit and created designs on becoming the first NBA team ever to come back to win after being three games down, ran off 20 straight points in the fourth quarter and were within four with 3:34 left. But Carmelo Anthony took over in the closing minutes and the Knicks left TD Garden with an 88-80 Game 6 victory on Friday to win the series 4-2.
New York moves on to face Indiana in the second round.
Anthony, who finished with 21 points, seven rebounds and five assists (he had six assists in the first five games), scored seven points in the closing minutes to help hold off the Boston charge, which started with the Celtics trailing by 26 points with less than 10 minutes left in the game.
The game might mark more than the end of the season for the Celtics, who did all they could without the injured Rajon Rondo. It could also mark the end of the Boston career of Paul Pierce. He has a year left on his contract at close to $15 million, but the team can buy him out for $5 million.
Last year, with the Celtics trying to stay alive against Miami in the conference final, Pierce went 4-for-18 from the floor and scored nine points. Friday night, he was 4-for-15, including 1-for-9 from 3-point range, and had 14 points, seven rebounds, five assists and five turnovers.
Iman Shumpert had 17 points and Pablo Prigioni 14 (going 4-for-6 on 3-pointers) in a balanced New York attack.
Jeff Green led the Celtics with 21 points before fouling out, while Kevin Garnett had 15 points and 10 rebounds and Jason Terry 14 points.
With Pierce going 1-for-10 from the floor, the Knicks probably should have led by 25 or more at the half. Instead, New York saw half of an 18-point lead evaporate before an old-fashioned 3-point play by Anthony with 4.5 seconds left in the half made it 39-27 at the break.
The Celtics missed their first nine 3-pointers before Green and Terry connected during a 10-0 run in the second quarter. They ended the half with 11 turnovers.
The Knicks then came out and had the lead back up to 18 3:04 into the second half. But Boston again answered, cutting it to 10 on a Terry three with 4:38 left in the third quarter.
Then came a 12-2 New York burst, with Shumpert nailing a pair of threes, and doing the Terry “Jet” celebration down the court. The burst gave the Knicks a 20-point lead after three and had boos coming from the crowd. Some started leaving.
They should have stayed. Things got interesting after the Knicks built a 26-point lead early in the fourth quarter.
NOTES: Knicks 3-point specialist Steve Novak was missing because of back spasms. “I just think it went out, locked up on him (in Game 5),” coach Mike Woodson said. “He couldn’t come back after the halftime, so we’ve got to move on.” … Celtics coach Doc Rivers, ending his pregame media chat, said, “Let’s hope we’re talking about basketball after the game.” … No. 1 Knicks fan Spike Lee, resplendent in Knicks orange, arrived about an hour before tipoff. When Celtics radio analyst Cedric Maxwell approached, Lee waved him away. They then had a chat. … Injured Knick Amar’e Stoudemire, who underwent right knee surgery on March 11 and hasn’t played since, was on the floor working out before the teams came out. He isn’t expected to play Sunday (regardless of which round) but could return later in a second-round series. “I don’t think he’s at that stage yet of playing in a game,” Woodson said. … Recently retired former Knick and Celtic Rasheed Wallace was also out shooting around. … Rivers on the unpleasantness between the teams: “There’s nothing wrong with a little bit of healthy dislike.” … The Elias Sports Bureau says the Celtics became the first team in NBA playoff history to be perfect from the foul line in two straight games: 19 of 19 and 17 of 17. … Only the 1951 Knicks, the 1994 Nuggets and 2003 Trail Blazers rallied to force a Game 7 before the Celtics and Rockets both attempted to do it Friday night. The other 100 3-0 leaders entering this season won their series and did it in less than seven games. In fact, according to Elias, Boston and Houston are only the 11th and 12th teams to force a Game 6.
Report: LeBron to be named NBA MVP for fourth time, make history
The NBA will name Miami Heat star LeBron James as league MVP, ESPN reported Friday, citing league sources.
It will be James’ fourth MVP honor. He also won it last year.
Only Michael Jordan, Bill Russell, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Wilt Chamberlain have also won the award at least four times.
Other candidates included Oklahoma City Thunder’s Kevin Durant and Los Angeles Clippers point guard Chris Paul.
League commissioner David Stern will present the MVP trophy to James in Miami on Sunday, a day before the Heat begin their second-round playoff series against either the Brooklyn Nets or Chicago Bulls.
Miami swept the Milwaukee Bucks in the first round.
James told reporters Friday that he is just focused on winning another championship, but coach Erik Spoelstra spoke about the MVP honor.
“He’s earned it,” Spoelstra said. “He’s having an even more historic season than he’s had the last two years. Most people probably didn’t think he could go to a higher level after last season, yet he reinvented himself to show that he could. Our pinch-ourselves moment was when we signed him. But since we’ve had him, we don’t take him for granted.”
James averaged 26.8 points, 8.0 rebounds, 7.3 assists, 1.7 steals and one block in 76 regular season games. He also shot a career-best 56.6 percent from the field and 40.6 percent from 3-point range.
The Heat went a franchise-best 66-16 this season, including a 27-game winning streak — second-longest in NBA history behind the Los Angeles Lakers’ 33-game streak in 1971-72.
Kobe, mom headed for ugly legal battle
Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant is trying to stop his mother from selling off memorabilia from earlier in his career.
After Bryant’s lawyers ordered New Jersey-based Goldin Auctions to cease-and-desist selling off the items, the online auction house filed a lawsuit against Bryant, according to CSN Philly.
Pamela Bryant sold the items to Goldin Auctions recently.
Kobe Bryant claims that his mother does not have the right to sell the items, but she contends in the lawsuit that he told her years ago that he does not want them.
The items include several of his high school uniforms, NBA championship rings and many other collectibles.
Pamela Bryant wants to auction off the items to buy a house, according to the lawsuit.