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Indiana Finishes Off Hawks, 98-79

From Associated Press

After dodging a playoff bullet in their first series, the Atlanta Hawks took one straight between the eyes Thursday when the Indiana Pacers beat them, 98-79, to win their NBA Eastern Conference semifinal series, 4-2.

The Hawks, who had the best record in the East during the regular season and were seeded first going into the playoffs, had been extended to a fifth game in beating the Miami Heat in the first round, but this time the competition proved too stiff.

Center Rik Smits, a thorn in Atlanta’s side in the final four games of the series, scored 11 of his 27 points a third quarter in which Indiana outscored the Hawks, 34-16. The Pacers opened the second half with a 12-2 spurt for a 50-37 lead and never looked back.

The Hawks joined the Seattle on the playoff sidelines in the first year since 1977-78 that both top-seeded teams failed to advance to the finals.

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Indiana advanced to the finals, to play the winner of the Chicago-New York series, for the first time since entering the NBA in 1976. The franchise had won three ABA championships, but had been 4-17 in NBA playoff games before this season.

Indiana, which swept the Orlando Magic in the opening round, improved to 7-2 in this year’s playoffs, including a 4-0 record at home.

The Pacers nursed a 38-35 lead at halftime before blowing the game open in the third quarter. Atlanta closed within 53-46 with 4:08 to play in the third, but the Pacers answered with a 19-5 surge to end the quarter and put the game out of reach.

Reggie Miller had 18 points, Derrick McKey 17 and reserve Byron Scott 14 for the Pacers.

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Danny Manning had 21 points for the Hawks.


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