While Game 4 against the Atlanta Hawks wasn't an elimination game, it was effectively one for the Indiana Pacers, who could ill afford to fall behind 3-1 to the Hawks, thus having to rely on three straight wins against a team unlikely to allow three straight wins. It's what made Indiana's 91-88 win in Atlanta so important. Not only tying the series at 2-2, but returning home court advantage to the Pacers with the series returning to Indianapolis as a best of three.
Things looked good for Indiana on the outset, as the Pacers used a pair of three pointers to jump out to an 8-0 advantage, but the Hawks weren't backing off of their own three point will of survival, attempting five three pointers in the first three minutes of game action, eventually knocking in a pair as the Hawks took an 11-10 lead. Even with Atlanta's three pointers continuing to be the series headline, the Pacers shot the ball exceptionally well in the first quarter to take a 29-22 lead into the second.
Indiana shot 66.7% in the quarter, 4-7 from three point range, but their offense stalled in the second quarter with the second unit, the team slumping their way to a 25% quarter as the Hawks took advantage, going up 48-38 with 1:21 remaining in the half. David West and Lance Stephenson pulled Indiana to within six at the half, but the Pacers couldn't corral in Atlanta's three point shooting, with a pair to open the third putting the Hawks back up 10.
The Pacers stepped up defensively, forcing three turnovers during a 12-0 run to take a 56-54 lead. Atlanta would respond with a 5-0 run to regain the advantage, as the teams went back and forth to close the third as Indiana took a slight 66-65 advantage. Indiana had a seven point turnaround in the third, key given the third quarter has proven to be a swing quarter in this series.
Indiana won the quarter 24-17, getting 22 of those points from Paul George, David West, and George Hill. They not only scored well, but they were big defensively in forcing the Hawks into 2-10 from three point range. The Hawks continued to live and die throughout games from the three point arc, three early in the fourth pushing Atlanta six point into the lead at 80-74.
Jeff Teague was relatively quiet today, shooting the ball fairly poorly while failing to make a huge difference in the paint. He was 5-15 on the day, scoring 14 and committing a team high four turnovers, including two late in the fourth, but hit a huge three with 4:37 remaining to keep the Pacers at bay, moving ahead 83-78. On the other end, Hill responded with a contested three of his own to trim the lead to two.
Mike Scott free throws and a Luis Scola jumper kept the Hawks at two with Indiana unable to trim into the lead any further on the next few couple of possessions, as West missed two big free throws. Teague's two turnovers came on ensuing possessions, turning into six crucial points for the Pacers, with George hitting a three in stride and West stepping into another big three as part of an 8-0 run to put Indiana ahead 89-85 with a minute with 90 seconds remaining.
On the following possession, West was called for a foul on Kyle Korver, who was falling out of bounds from three, setting him up for a trip to the line to shoot three. Korver hit his first two, but Indiana's second lane violation of the quarter bailed Korver out of missing the third, his second attempt going in and trimming Indiana's lead to one. Hill responded with a driving layup on an offensive rebound to push Indiana's lead to three with a minute to go.
In an agonizingly comedic final minute, the Pacers and Hawks out-dueled each other for worse possessions as the teams traded turnovers, the ball eventually ending up in Indiana's hands with eight seconds remaining. DeMarre Carroll was whistled for a foul on the inbounds, sending George to the line, where he went on to miss both attempts, keeping the game knotted at 91-88 with six seconds remaining.
Pero Antic would miss a game tying three, wrapping up Indiana's 91-88 victory, as Indiana moves the series to 2-2 and pushes home court back in Indiana's favor. The Pacers sweated out a really tough win against a Hawks team that continued to be a nightmare from the free throw line and from three point range. The Hawks got off 31 more attempts today, hitting 11 to bring their postseason total up to 44.
The Hawks not only continued to hit shot after shot, they put on another free throw clinic, going 17-17, and outscoring Indiana from the line by nine (aided by Indiana's 0-4 run to close the game). The Hawks have enjoyed healthy advantages from these two areas in both of their wins, but Indiana was able to come out with the win thanks to Indiana's ability to remove Teague as a game changing portion of the game.
While the Pacers have had to claw and fight their way to a 2-2 series heading home, it's somewhat relieving to know that the Hawks haven't come up with a win yet without all three of those things in their favor, but it certainly won't be an easy series moving forward. Paul George will need to continue play like this to give Indiana their best chance at winning. George was 10-18 with four threes and while he had some poor shots, he converted his good looks more often than not.
He also put in a double double with 10 rebounds, had a team high five assists, and had two of Indiana's 11 blocks. He helped to limit Teague's effectiveness, with the Hawks shooting just 35.7% on the night with 14 turnovers turning into 22 Indiana points, with the Pacers blitzing the Hawks for 19 fast break points. The game was as close as it was due to that free throw advantage, but also Atlanta's offensive rebounding, giving the Hawks seven extra attempts.
While the Pacers were effectively a three man show in the second half, Evan Turner's play in the first half was a huge boost for Indiana. The Pacers have spent a majority of the series adjusting to Atlanta's three point shooting while not using whatever size advantage they might have the other way. Part of that is to do with Roy Hibbert's struggles and Ian Mahinmi's inability to stay on the floor, but Turner was incredibly effective with his post game, putting the works on Lou Williams as part of his 11 point, four assist night.
Hibbert's struggles have been the headlines, but the big fella looked much better out there tonight, showing patience on offense with six points on 3-5 shooting and making plays on the defensive end with his first two blocks of the series (even grabbing two offensive boards). While not a statistical masterpiece, Hibbert played well in his 25 minutes, getting extended minutes due to Mahinmi's...inability to stay on the floor.
George Hill shook off an awful Game 3 with a 15 point, five assist night, shooting 5-8 with his first two three pointers of the series after starting 0-9 in the series from beyond the arc. C.J. Watson also played well in the guard position, scoring six points on 3-8 shooting. Luis Scola's shooting night wasn't pretty at 2-7, but came through with two big jumpers in the fourth quarter as the Pacers weathered Atlanta's shooting onslaught.
David West was 7-13 in the game, he wasn't necessarily dominate, but was a key piece of Indiana's success all night. He had 18 points and five boards, two assists, three steals, and two blocks. Stepping into an elbow three pointer with 90 seconds remaining to push Indiana up four has once again shown itself to be a valuable twist to Indiana's offense. While getting rocked by three pointers, the Pacers fought back with three pointers, none bigger than West (and George's) late in the quarter, the Pacers hitting nine as a team in an effort to at least minimize Atlanta's advantage from deep.
With the series at 2-2, the Pacers have a real chance to take the control of the series with Game 5 tipping off Monday night in Indianapolis. The game will be an NBA TV special at 8 p.m. ET, with local coverage showing up on FOX Sports Indiana. The Pacers have lacked any real consistency in some time to make this win seem like a series changer, but there will be no better opportunity for the Pacers than in Game 5 given a loss would push the series back to Atlanta with Indiana facing elimination.