The Atlanta Hawks pulled even with the Indiana Pacers in their Eastern Conference first-round NBA playoff series on Monday, while the Brooklyn Nets avoided being eliminated by beating the Chicago Bulls.
Josh Smith scored a career playoff high 29 points and grabbed 11 rebounds to lead Atlanta over the Pacers 102-91, pulling the Hawks level at 2-2 in the best-of-seven series, which continues with Game 5 today in Indianapolis.
In New York, Brook Lopez scored 28 points and Deron Williams added 23 to lead Brooklyn over Chicago 110-91, pulling the Nets within 3-2 with Game 6 tomorrow in Chicago. The winner faces defending champions the Miami Heat in round two.
Smith sparked the Hawks to a 13th consecutive home triumph over Indiana, with Al Horford added 18 points, 10 in the fourth quarter, and Kyle Korver came off the bench to tally 19 points, hitting five of eight three-point shots.
“The things Al gives us can’t be duplicated. We definitely needed him,” Smith said. “Kyle just shot the mess out of the ball, made big shot after big shot. Every time we needed it, he buried it.”
The Hawks, who lost the first two games of the series on the road, took a confidence boost from two home triumphs.
“We have to come out with the same energy and intensity we have these past two games,” Smith said. “We just have to compete and we’ll be OK.”
Paul George led the Pacers with 21 points and 12 rebounds, and tried to spark a late fourth-quarter comeback, but the Hawks never led Indiana within five points, before pulling away at the finish.
“We’ve shown we have been in this situation before,” Smith said. “We took their biggest punch and were able to respond with one of ours.”
In Brooklyn, Lopez added 10 rebounds, while Williams contributed 10 assists, Reggie Evans grabbed 12 rebounds and reserve Andray Blatche netted 13 points.
The Bulls, who made a stunning comeback in the last minutes of regulation on the way to victory in Game 4, could not produce another rally after the Nets took a 98-91 lead late in the fourth quarter.
Gerald Wallace sank a three-pointer and turned a steal into a slam dunk to give Brooklyn a 103-91 edge and ignite a game-ending 12-0 run for the Nets.
Nate Robinson, who sparked the Bulls’ victory rally in Game 3, led the Bulls with 20 points.