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Pacers Focused On Effort, Not Trickery

by Mark Montieth | askmontieth@gmail.com

May 3, 2013, 3:27 PM

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ATLANTA – Danny Granger was in practice gear and in attendance for the Pacers' morning practice session at Philips Arena on Friday. Now that would be a strategic adjustment, wouldn't it?

Alas, there will be no dramatic return from Granger for Game 6 of the team's playoff series with Atlanta. Not even a David Lee-style, 87-second return for motivational purposes. He's not even eligible for the playoffs, much less healthy enough to play.

That leaves Pacers coach Frank Vogel with few remaining wrinkles to unravel on the Hawks tonight, other than getting his players to give maximum effort in this close-out opportunity on the road. The Pacers have scored more than 100 points in all three of the games played at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, but averaged just 80 in their losses in Games 3 and 4. They lost those games by an average of 16 points and outscored Atlanta in just one of the eight quarters.

That's why the conversation following the morning workout was more about the kind of hustle that relates to effort than the kind of hustle that involves trickery. The Pacers need to hustle, particularly on defense, more than they need to hustle the Hawks with clever strategy.

“I think we've played harder at home than we've played here,” Vogel said. “That's got to change if we're going to get a win in this building.

“I'm not really sure why. I think we got up two games and they had a greater sense of urgency. We're warning (the players) and talking about not falling into the same trap.”

Pacers forward David West, who scored 24 points to lead the Game 5 victory, senses a different mood among his teammates. They are still loose, but slightly more serious than the previous two games in Atlanta.

“I think we're a little more focused, a little more locked-in, understanding the magnitude of this moment,” West said. “(Thursday) we got here and had a film session. I thought the guys' attention and the way they were focused … the communication was different. Hopefully it translates to tonight.”

The tone of the morning practice also was different, according to Paul George.

“I think we're coming in with the emphasis we got to finish this series,” he said. “We got to play well. We got to play like we played at home. We got to treat this like an elimination game for us. I think it's there. Coach instilled that in this practice today.”

While the Pacers have lost 13 consecutive games in Atlanta, and were generally dominated in the two playoff games here, they can draw from the second half of Game 4 for encouragement. After trailing by 17 points at halftime, they outscored the Hawks by 10 in the third period and remained competitive throughout most of the fourth before giving way in the final few minutes.

“We're more than capable of playing a complete game and winning,” West said. “We just have to go out and do it.”

Vogel, however, issued a warning as well, writing on the message board that the three other teams have failed in close-out games in the playoffs so far – New York, Oklahoma City and Golden State, although the Warriors clinched their series with Denver on Thursday.

The Pacers can't afford to assume anything tonight. Certainly not in the building that has haunted them for so many years, and the stench of their performance in Games 3 and 4 is still fresh.

“They're licking their wounds still from the last two times we were in this building,” Vogel said. “They understand how good (the Hawks) are, how good they are here. We have to play even better in Game 6 than we played in Game 5.”

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