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Altanta Looks to Take 2-1 Lead Over Indiana

The first round best of seven NBA playoff series between the Indiana Pacers and Atlanta Hawks headed south to Atlanta for Game 3 on Thursday. The teams split the first two games in Indiana.

Atlanta, one of four teams from the Southeast Division to reach the playoffs, beat Indiana soundly in Game 1, but the Pacers returned the favor in Game 2.

Indiana looked to have its swagger back late in Game 2 and looks to prove they have turned things around in Game 3. Indiana dominated the third quarter of Game 2, which helped to quiet the criticism the club has faced after playing mediocre basketball the last seven weeks.

The criticism will return if Indiana cannot put together a win in Game 3 on Thursday. However, that might be easier said than done, as Indiana has not fared well in Atlanta.

The Hawks have endured their own bit of adversity over the past few years thanks to a complete overhaul of the lineup and losing Al Horford their top player in December to a season ending back injury.

Atlanta reached the postseason with the worst record of any of the 16 teams that qualified. The Hawks were just 38-44 during the regular season.

Mike Budenholzer, the team’s rookie coach has called his players resilient and tough-minded throughout the season.

Atlanta did a number of positive things over the first two games of the series, including winning the opener 101-93. In Game 2, they looked poised to take a 2-0 lead in the series after opening up a lead of 11 points during the first half.

However, Indiana suddenly came to life and outscored the Hawks over the rest of the second quarter and the entire third quarter 52-27, which gave the Pacers a lead of 14 points headed to the fourth quarter.

Indiana has not been successful in Phillips Arena, Atlanta’s home court. Indiana has won just twice there since the end of 2006. The Pacers lost 13 consecutive games during that stretch over a six-year period.

However, the Pacers are 2-1 SU over their past three games played in Atlanta.

Indiana tried to get Roy Hibbert their center more involved early in Game 2, but when that did not work, Indiana turned to Paul George the team’s high scorer for the season.

George scored 27 points in the game, while George Hill added 15, all in the second half. Luis Scola gave the Pacers a huge spark when he came off the bench to score 20 points.

Atlanta must find a way for Jeff Teague, their talented point guard, to play in Game 3 as he performed in Game 1, scoring 28 points, a career high for the playoffs.

The Hawks must also shoot better from beyond the three-point line as they hit just 10 of their 29 shots from there in Game 2 and at one point missed 11 straight.

Look for Indiana to keep George on Teague, as the taller George was able to stop Teague from penetrating and pulling up of jumpers or dishing off to open teammates.

Prediction: Indiana 98-93

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