The entire Pacers defense was smothering in the second half of Game 2 against the Atlanta Hawks, but the effort was led by Indiana’s All-Star Paul George.
George had made some noise entering the game when he announced he wanted to draw Jeff Teague on defense in Game 2 after the Hawks point guard torched counterpart George Hill for 28 points in Game 1 to lead Atlanta to an upset victory. Paul held true and defended Teague in crucial portions of the game and helped Indiana on offense to a 101-85 win. His efforts helped the top-seeded Pacers pull to a 1-1 tie with the Hawks in the best-of-seven first-round series.
It was tough sledding as multiple Indiana defenders converged whenever a Hawks players would enter the lane. Atlanta was able to compensate by spreading the floor and hitting 8 of 16 shot from behind the arc. However, they only hit 1-of-12 three-pointers on their first twelve shots after halftime, and their fate would be sealed by the time the fourth quarter began.
As for the George-Teague matchup, the results of the game dictated a rousing success for the home team. Teague finished with 14 points on 6-of-13 shooting. In addition, he only dished out four assists while committing three turnovers. He had a hard time finding space in the lane to operate like the rest of team and it clearly doomed a Hawks team that is now left looking for answers.
By the time head coach Mike Budenholzer emptied the bench for garbage time, the Hawks were just 6-for-30 from the field in the second half. Too often one Hawk ball handler tried to take on the entire Pacer defense single-handedly. This is a far cry from what coach Budenholzer expects in an offense that endeavors to share the ball and find the open man. The ownness falls on the floor general, Jeff Teague, to keep the offense running functionally but that was not the case in a tragic third quarter that saw a 31-13 point margin in favor of the Pacers.
Paul George deserves a lot of credit for throwing the Hawks off their gameplan in spearheading the defense that stonewalled Teague and everyone else wearing navy blue. The Hawks will have to watch the tape and recognize when they are driving into the teeth of the defense.
Game 3 will be in Atlanta at Philips Arena on Thursday at 7:00 PM ET.