Hawks guard Jeff Teague drives to the basket with Indiana's Paul George defending. George scored 30 points to lead the Pacers to a Game 7 win on Saturday. (Reuters)
INDIANAPOLIS -- After teetering on the edge of a gangplank through five games, the Eastern Conference No. 1-seeded Indiana Pacers found a way, defeating the No. 8 Atlanta Hawks, 92-80, in Saturday's Game 7 in Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Indiana advanced to play the Washington Wizards in the second round.
Having forced Game 7 with a 95-88 victory on Thursday night in Atlanta, the Pacers showed flashes of the team that dominated the East during the season's first three months, using a 7-0 run to close the first quarter and lead, 24-23.
Indiana used an 18-4 burst to close the second quarter in building a 47-36 halftime advantage.
Pacer forward Paul George, who finished with 30 points, had a 16-point first half, guard Lance Stephenson added 10 during the pivotal first 24 minutes.
Much-maligned and struggling center Roy Hibbert added nine points and five rebounds before intermission, when Indiana dominated the boards, 27-13.
Stephenson finished with 19 points and 14 rebounds. George had 11 rebounds to go with his 30 points.
Atlanta guard Kyle Korver, who led Atlanta with 19 points, scored 12 first-half points, including a rare four-point play that gave the Hawks a 32-29 lead with 9:34 remaining in the second quarter.
But that's when Indiana responded with the 18-4 run that included 10 points from George.
Indiana made 10-of-16 shots in the second period, while Atlanta hit only 4-of-20, including only a pair of two-point baskets.
The Pacers continued to apply the pressure in the third quarter, taking a 57-40 lead on George Hill's three-point play at the 8:10 mark.
Indiana's advantage was 62-45 when the Hawks mounted another charge, outscoring the Pacers, 18-9, to close the quarter and pull to within 71-63 with 12 minutes to go.
Through three quarters, the Pacers enjoyed a 39-26 rebounding advantage, with forward David West collecting 12 and Stephenson adding nine with still one quarter to go.
At that point, Indiana applied essentially what amounted to a knockout punch, increasing its lead to 77-64 with 9:56 to go, capped by George's field goal that forced an Atlanta timeout.
The Pacers never allowed Atlanta to make a final run, leading 90-78 with 1:27 remaining.
NOTES: In NBA history, the home team has a 92-23 record in Game 7s. ... Certainly, Indianapolis loves its Pacers, but Atlanta has a strong Indianapolis flavor. Hawks guard Jeff Teague is a graduate of Indianapolis Pike High School. Guard Shelvin Mack played college ball at Butler, only a few miles north of Bankers Life Fieldhouse ... The are 50-3 this season when leading entering the third quarter. Indiana took a 47-36 lead into the locker room in this Game 7. ... This marks the sixth time Indiana and Atlanta have met in a playoff series. The Pacers won three of the first five and Atlanta won in 1986-87 and again in 1995-96. ... Saturday was the first time Indiana hosted a Game 7 in any playoff series.