ATLANTA -- As Al Horford led a lumbering fast break, David West doled out a flagrant blow that sent the Atlanta centre tumbling to the court.
This time, the Hawks didn't back down.
Jeff Teague came up from behind to give West a shove, a play that epitomized a resurgent team intent on making this a series. That the Hawks did, stunning the Indiana Pacers with a dominant first half on the way to a 90-69 rout in Game 3 on Saturday night.
Horford had 26 points and 16 rebounds to help the Hawks narrow the Pacers' lead to 2-1.
But everyone played with more energy that they did in two double-digit losses at Indianapolis.
"We wanted to show them we're here to play," Teague said. "We were not going to back down to them."
This one was over by halftime, the Hawks racing to a 54-30 lead that set a franchise record for fewest points allowed in the first half of a playoff game, and matching Indiana's worst effort in a post-season opening half.
Game 4 in the best-of-seven series is Monday night in Atlanta, where the Hawks have won 12 straight over the Pacers dating to 2006.
"This team did something they've done all year long," coach Larry Drew said. "They responded."
The Hawks changed up their lineup -- inserting 7-footer Johan Petro at centre and bringing 3-point specialist Kyle Korver off the bench -- after getting manhandled on the road. With more favourable matchups and a lot more energy, Atlanta suddenly looked like a team that can challenge the Pacers.
"We were ready to go," Drew said. "Before the game, I went in the locker-room to give my speech and it was quiet in there. That told me they were focused."
Indiana, which was so dominant on its home court, was a totally different team after heading south. West led the Pacers with 18 points. Paul George, who averaged 25 points in the first two games, was held to 16 on 4-of-11 shooting.
The Pacers connected on a dismal 27 per cent (22 of 81) from the field. Taking Smith and George out of the mix, they were 11 of 56.
"We're a very young team," coach Frank Vogel said. "There's going to be some growing pains. We're going to feel this, experience this, and get better from it."
Josh Smith added 14 points for the Hawks, and Teague had 13. But that's only part of the story. Smith was able to take George out of his comfort zone, while Teague put the clamps on George Hill, who had surprisingly averaged 20 points in the first two games. The Pacers guard was held to three on 1-of-8 shooting.
"They came out with a lot of energy, put us on our heels early, and the rest is history," Hill said. "We turned the ball over a lot and we weren't getting to the places that we want to get to on offensive end."
Drew started the little-used Petro at centre in hopes of cutting into the Pacers' size advantage, a move that had a ripple effect on Horford and Smith, providing more favourable defensive matchups all along the front line. Horford was able to shift to power forward, while Smith moved over to small forward.
"We were ready," Smith said.
-- The Associated Press