The other day, we reported on how the Indiana Pacers are looking a little shaky in their series with the Atlanta Hawks. The number-one seeded Pacers were beaten 101-93 in a game where the final score made things appear much better than they were.
Well, things are looking better for Indiana since they rebounded on their home floor, grabbing a 101-85 win against the Hawks in Game 2. Atlanta actually made this a contest, until the Pacers dominated the third quarter by going on a 24-6 run. But despite the excellent performance, one thing that’s been overshadowing Indiana’s win is a story involving a fist fight before Game 1.
The two parties involved were Evan Turner and Lance Stephenson, and they apparently got into a fight while practicing before the first game. The two went at each other before David West and Luis Scola pulled the players off of each other.
There’s no word on exactly what caused the scuffle – maybe the team is keeping this info in the locker room. But we can only guess that Turner and Stephenson haven’t meshed well since Turner’s come over from Philadelphia in a mid-season trade. It’s no secret that Stephenson can be somewhat annoying with his questionable shot selection.
West discussed the matter before playing in Game 2 as he said, “We’ve been on the ropes a little bit. Every team goes through that. But I thought we did a great job of dealing with whatever issues we had.” West added, “The great thing about this group has always been that we’re very open with one another, always been able to get through the ups and downs of a long NBA season.”
The Pacers have mostly experienced downs over the last few weeks. However, they were able to even up the series with Atlanta, and they’ve got some steam heading into Game 3.
Even with the momentum, though, Indiana has to be looking at the big picture here. Assuming they can beat the Hawks, which is definitely no given at this point, they need Roy Hibbert to get going. He was 1-for-7 in Game 2 and Atlanta has done a good job of nullifying his defensive efforts by constantly shooting 3’s.
Despite his complaining about the team down the stretch, Hibbert knows what’s on the line in these playoffs. “We know that Larry (Bird) and Donnie (Walsh) and (Kevin Pritchard) put a team together to try and win a championship this year,” he said. “We know that’s the goal, and we know that’s the kind of talent we have here. It’s up to us now to do it, to get it done.”
If Indiana doesn’t get it done, there’ll no doubt be questions to be answered this offseason. But at least these questions don’t start with swingman Paul George. Despite his Game 1 struggles, George showed why he’s this team’s franchise player in the second game after scoring 27 points, grabbing 10 boards, delivering six assists and producing four steals.
The main questions lie in what Indiana will do with Hibbert if he continues under-performing. He was a fringe-MVP candidate last year, but has been nothing more than an average center lately. Furthermore, where does Turner fit into this organization’s plans? So far, he’s fit like a square peg in a round hole and something needs to change quickly for he and the team chemistry. “I’m just trying to make the right plays here,” Turner said. “Some nights I get two shots, some nights I get 10 or 12. I’m trying to get acclimated.”
Once again, there’s plenty on the line for Indiana tonight as they play Game 3 in Atlanta. Another loss means more pressure on this club and further questions from the media. Another dominating win, and they can take control of this series and continue thinking about a potential championship run.