Missions accomplished: Pacers make playoffs, Hawks unscathed
The Pacers had one goal. Win to make the playoffs.
The Hawks had one goal. Escape without any injuries.
The Pacers defeated the bubble-wrapped Hawks 104-86 in the regular-season finale Wednesday at the Bankers Life Fieldhouse. The Pacers clinched the No. 7 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs. The Hawks clinched the No. 5 seed on Tuesday and played without Paul Millsap, Dwight Howard, Kent Bazemore, Dennis Schroder and Tim Hardaway Jr.
The Hawks will open the playoffs at the No. 4 Wizards with Game 1 on Sunday at 1 p.m. in Washington, D.C. The game will be televised by TNT. The remainder of the schedule will be released later Wednesday night.
The Pacers led by as many as 18 points before the Hawks made it interesting with a fourth-quarter run. The Hawks closed within eight points, 92-84, with 5:32 on back-to-back 3-pointers by Ryan Kelly. The Pacers answered with a 12-2 run with Paul George scoring eight of the points and the must-win was again safe.
The Hawks (43-39) had a four-game win streak snapped in the meaningless game. They will open the playoffs against the Wizards this weekend.
Ersan Ilyasova led the Hawks with 15 points. Jose Calderon added 12 points.
The Pacers (42-40) won their fifth straight to end the regular season and earn the postseason berth.
George led the Pacers with a double-double of 32 points and 11 rebounds. Former Hawks player Jeff Teague added 19 points before leaving late in the game after rolling his ankle.
The Pacers controlled most of the game grabbed an unsurmountable lead in the third quarter. They led by as many as 18 points. They started the period on a 13-4 run and never looked back. Teague scored 14 points in the quarter and the Pacers led 84-68 going into the fourth.
The Pacers led by as many as 11 points in the first half and took a 50-43 lead into intermission. They used an 11-0 run between the first and second quarters to grab a double-digit lead. The Pacers led 32-21 before the Hawks got within two points with a 13-4 run. Kris Humphries missed two free throws that would have tied the game and the Pacers scored the next seven points to regain a sizeable advantage.
George had 14 first-half points for the Pacers, including four 3-pointers.