True, it was only one game in what could be a very long — or very short — postseason.
But if Tuesday night’s performance is an indication of how the Indiana Pacers plan to play moving forward, their playoff ride won’t end soon.
Recapturing the passion, energy and execution that propelled them to the NBA’s best record for the first two-thirds of the season, the Pacers thrilled a sellout Bankers Life Fieldhouse crowd with a 101-85 rout of the Atlanta Hawks in Game 2 of their first round playoff series.
Paul George had game-high totals of 27 points and 10 rebounds, and Luis Scola had 20 points and seven rebounds off the bench as the Pacers evened the best-of-seven series at 1-1.
Game 3 is Thursday in Atlanta.
Embarrassed 101-93 in last Saturday’s Game 1, the Pacers responded with one of their most impassioned efforts in recent weeks. Shaking off a shaky first half, they took control in the third quarter and never looked back.
In a display reminiscent of their pre-All-Star break form, the Pacers — who trailed 52-48 at halftime — outscored Atlanta 31-13 in the third quarter, where George and point guard George Hill combined for 18 points. George had eight points in the period, and Hill — who finished with 15 — had 10 in the quarter.
Indiana outscored the Hawks 22-6 over the last nine minutes of the third period and took a 79-65 advantage into the fourth.
The Pacers only increased their lead from there.
A pair of free throws by Hill gave Indiana an 85-65 lead with 10:19 to play, and the margin never dipped below 14 the rest of the way. The Pacers enjoyed their biggest lead, 96-69, with 6:07 remaining on a three-pointer by Hill, by which time both teams began emptying their benches.
All 13 active players for both teams saw action and played three-plus minutes each.
For the night, Indiana shot 52.9 percent from the field and outrebounded the Hawks 38-31. The Pacers limited Atlanta to 39 percent shooting and, more importantly, limited Hawks’ guard Jeff Teague to 14 points. The former Pike High School star lit Indiana for 28 points in Game 1.
Perhaps most encouraging for the Pacers was George’s performance, which mirrored many of his games early in the season when he was billed as an MVP candidate. He was 9 of 16 from the field, including 5 of 7 on three-pointers, and had six assists and four steals.
Scola also came up big, scoring 11 of his points in the second quarter to keep Indiana in contention when, at times, it appeared the Hawks were poised to break the game open. For the night, he was 9 of 14 from the field.
Besides Scola, the Pacers got a lift from backup point guard C.J. Watson, who had 10 points, five rebounds and made 2 of 4 three-point attempts.
For the Hawks, Paul Millsap had a team-high 19 points. Teague was the only other Atlanta starter in double figures. Lou Williams and Mike Scott had 11 apiece off the bench.