The Hawks (2-2) had a shot to tie the game on the final possession, but Pero Antic‘s three was wide right as the Pacers (2-2) held on for a 91-88 victory to even the series before going back to Indiana. Paul Millsap led all scorers with 29 points (10-of-18) along with seven rebounds, three blocks, and two assists, but Paul George and George Hill carried the Pacers down the stretch with an assist from an unexpected three-pointer by David West to help the Pacers get a much needed win.
Hawks vs. Pacers
The Pacers rolled with their small lineup featuring West and Luis Scola for the closing stretch of the fourth quarter, and it paid off for Frank Vogel’s club. The lineup, which has been one of Indiana’s best offensive groups the last few games, was not only effective on offense, but did well defensively as well. Atlanta turned the ball over five times in the fourth quarter leading to six Indiana points, and shot just 6-for-16 from the field in the fourth.
“Against this team which has five three-point shooter, I think it makes sense ,” said Coach Vogel. “It makes me a little worried about rim protection, as we usually have Ian or Roy out there. What we have are two major league competitors in David West and Luis Scola.”
George finished with 24 points (10-of-18), 10 rebounds, and five assists and hit 4-of-7 from the three-point line. While George has had big games with the exception of Game 3, the difference in this game was the production from Hill, West, and Evan Turner. West had 18 points (7-of-13), five rebounds, three steals, and two blocks and, along with Ian Mahinmi, did a terrific job protecting the rim on defense. Turner gave the Pacers a spark in the first half with 11 points and Hill had his best game of the series going 5-of-8 from the floor with 15 points, five assists, three rebounds, and two steals. Hill hit a tough layup cutting across the lane that put the Pacers up by three in the final minute.
The Pacers defense as a whole was terrific, holding the Hawks to 35.7% shooting, blocking 11 Hawks shots on the game, and forced 14 turnovers that led to 22 points. Aside from Millsap, the Hawks struggled to get much going offensively. DeMarre Carroll — who had a big Game 3 — was just 1-of-6 from the field with three points, seven rebounds, and four assists, and Pero Antic also was just 1-of-6 from field with two points.
Only Millsap shot above 50% from the field – Shelvin Mack shot exactly 50% at 3-of-6 — and for the first time all series, they were able to keep Jeff Teague away from the rim and off the free throw line — only two free throw attempts for Teague. Jeff finished with 14 points (5-of-15), seven assists, and six rebounds and hit a pair of big three-pointers in the fourth quarter, but was not able to create as many looks at the rim as he had in the previous games.
After executing exceptionally well in the fourth quarter of Game 3 on both ends of the floor, the Hawks execution left plenty to be desired late in this one. With the Pacers’ defense locked in, the Hawks struggled to create open looks and had some sloppy turnovers and possessions in the fourth.
“Our group competed tonight and put themselves in a position to win,” said Coach Bud. “Our execution wasn’t where it needed to be and we’ll all work on that and look to improve as we execute down the stretch. Defensively, there are a lot of positives. Both teams hit some tough shots and made some big plays. We just need to get more efficient offensively and get better execution offensively. If we can keep competing like we competed tonight, that’s what we’re looking for.”
The Pacers, who trailed by six at the half, got going in the third quarter while the Hawks sputtered. Millsap picked up his third and fourth fouls with 9:42 to go in the third, and had to sit until the 3:45 mark. In that stretch, the Pacers went on a 14-8 run to get the lead down to three, and continued that run to take a one-point lead into the fourth quarter.
The Hawks quickly took the lead in and led for most of the fourth quarter, by as many as six with 7:31 left, but the Pacers were able to fight back and took the lead for good on a George fall-away three-pointer with 2:11 to play followed by West’s three-pointer with 1:54 left. The Hawks got the lead back to just one after three Kyle Korver free throws — three of his 15 points and a career playoff-high nine rebounds — but after Hill hit the runner to go back up three with 56.3 seconds left, neither team was able to score.
Execution on offense was a problem for both teams who got opportunities, the Hawks to tie or lead and the Pacers to ice it away, but neither offense could produce in that final minute. Millsap missed a runner in the lane late that would’ve cut the lead to one, and then, up three, George missed two free throws to give the Hawks one final look with 6.9 seconds to go. The Hawks got the ball in to Millsap who passed to Antic on the wing. Antic stepped back and got a decent look that went off the right-side of the rim as time expired.
With the win, the Pacers reclaimed home-court advantage and the Hawks will have to take at least one more in Indiana if they are to win the series.
“I think we’re still a confident group,” said Millsap. “We let one slip away here. We showed that we can go and compete in the games up there. That’s what our mindset is now. We have to let this one go and get ready for Monday.”
The Hawks’ first opportunity to do that will be Monday night in Game 5.
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