Basketball / Sports

The Atlanta Hawks' DeMarre Carroll (5) delivers an elbow to the Indiana Pacers' Lance Stephenson while going after the ball in the second half of Game 6 of an NBA Eastern Conference quarterfinal at Philips Arena in Atlanta, Thursday, May 1, 2014. The Pacers beat the Hawks, 95-88. (Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution/MCT)

Hawks face a tall task on the road

ATLANTA -- The Hawks have won a Game 7 -- just not on the road.

The franchise is 0-8 in such deciding games away from home. Since moving to Atlanta, the Hawks are 2-3 in Game 7's, with each win at home and each loss on the road.

The task at hand is a tall one indeed. A No. 8 seed has never beaten a No. 1 seed in a Game 7.

The Eastern Conference first-round playoff series between the Hawks and the Pacers has been reduced to one game as the matchup concludes Saturday in Indianapolis. The Hawks have won twice at Bankers Life Fieldhouse this series, taking Games 1 and 5. The eighth-seeded Hawks will have to win again on the Pacers' home court or summer comes early for the team that just a day earlier could have sent its opposition packing.

"The pressure is on both teams," Paul Millsap said following Thursday's Game 6 loss. "Both teams are trying to advance. We had high hopes of coming out with this game. ... We still have another game, and we have to try to get it."

The Hawks have not shot well from 3-point range -- their bread and butter -- during their three losses. In games they won, they made 38 3-pointers. In games they lost, they made 30.

The Hawks' spread offense, which has caused the Pacers matchup problems throughout the series, is designed to use speed to get into the paint and finish or get open perimeter shots. The Hawks must make those shots if they have a chance to win for a third time in Indiana.

It's not quite that simple.

"Obviously whichever team shoots better has a big impact on it," Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer said Friday. "Our defense has to be good. We can't just say if we make shots we're are going to win, if we don't make shots we are not going to win. For a lot of the series and a lot of stretches we've been good defensively. There are some areas and some times where we need to be better.

"I think it's really not looking at the full picture if we just start thinking that it's all if we make shots, we miss shots."

The Pacers made several adjustments during their 95-88 Game 6 victory designed to use more speed to help defend against the Hawks' shooters. Budenholzer said after a film review, he is more apt to blame the team's late-game execution. The Pacers ended the game on a 16-4 run. The Hawks missed four straight shots and had two turnovers before getting their first basket during the decisive stretch.

"I think our execution needs to be better and we need to continue to drive and attack and get better opportunities," Budenholzer said. "It's very subtle. There were still lots of good looks. There were times when they played good defense and they deserve credit. Foot speed and different guys on the court, I think it's irrelevant to us who is on the court and how they are playing.

"We've got to be better. We've got to drive it. We've got to play with the pass and all those things. We feel like we'll get good opportunities."

They Hawks have one last game to make them count.

TV ratings: Game 6 of the series became the highest-rated Hawks game ever on the Fox Sports South and SportSouth networks by drawing a 4.84 rating. The record audience came just days after a record 4.5 rating for Monday's Game 5. NBA TV's national coverage of the game also set a record. Nearly 2 million viewers tuned in between 9:30 and 9:45 p.m., with NBA TV officials saying it was the most-watched quarter-hour in network history.

(c)2014 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Atlanta, Ga.)

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