The Indiana Pacers took only 34 minutes to score 69 points, a figure so important that it has a place in the NBA record book. They spent the rest of Saturday putting away the Atlanta Hawks, 101-81, to take a 2-1 lead in their NBA Eastern Conference semifinal series.
After the Hawks had held Indiana to an NBA playoff record-low 69 points in winning Game 2 at Atlanta, it became important for the Pacers to get off to a good start in their first home game of the series.
That they had been behind at halftime in their last six playoff games wore heavily, too, so Indiana used an inside-outside of Rik Smits and Reggie Miller in taking a 16-4 lead in the game’s first five minutes. The Pacers never trailed.
Smits, a 7-foot-4 center, scored six points in the run and Miller, an outside-shooting specialist, made a three-point goal.
“We did a better job of getting him the ball,” Indiana Coach Larry Brown said of Smits, who scored 18 of his 27 points in the first half. “We’re trying to figure out ways we can get it to him early, before help gets there.”
Said Miller, who had 13 of his 16 points in the first half: “We wanted to get the low post scoring. We didn’t have that in Game 2. All we were taking were jump shots.”
The culprits Saturday were the Hawks’ front-line players.
“We allowed Rik Smits down on the block too many times,” Atlanta Coach Lenny Wilkens said. “You can’t let people just take their position--and he did. He got on the block and it hurt us.”
Game 4 is today at Indianapolis.
The Pacers consistently sent the ball inside to Smits, who had scored only 22 points in the first two games of the series.
“We tried to come out aggressively early,” Smits said. “I worked on my jump shots, because in the other games they weren’t falling. It worked out well today.”
Miller made only two of 13 shots in scoring 12 points in the second game of the series. He and Smits helped the Pacers take a 53-42 halftime lead.
Kevin Willis led the Hawks with 14 points, and Danny Manning and Stacey Augmon had 13 apiece as Atlanta shot only 41.3%.