As the Pacers cut the deficit to 20 points in the third quarter, the Bankers Life Fieldhouse crowd roared with approval, desperately imploring the home team to keep pushing.
The Pacers earned some well deserved boos earlier in the game as they gave up 41 second-quarter points and appeared to be buried and done, but at the first sign of life, the crowd made for a friendly work place. So I doff my cap to the fans at BLF for giving this team more support than they actually deserve at this point.
After continuing to try and jam the square peg that is Roy Hibbert and a big lineup into the round hole that is this matchup with Atlanta, Frank Vogel finally made a "why not?" move to play Chris Copeland midway through the third quarter. The Atlanta lead went from 24 to 30 and Cope missed his first three shots from behind the arc.
But the Pacers style of play changed and soon they gathered some momentum, not only getting stops but also getting open looks or open lanes to the rim. A few key misses at the free throw line, around the rim and from behind the arc kept the Pacers from ever challenging for the win, but with Copeland playing as part of a small lineup they were as good as they have been all series at both ends of the floor.
"They added a lot more shooting for sure, but I thought it was more what they did on the defensive end than what they did on the offensive end," Kyle Korver said after the game. "I thought defensively, they were really tough. We had a tough time getting looks. And when they got stops, they got out and ran and got us scrambling a little bit."
Of course, Korver drilled the deep dagger that staggered the Pacers comeback after they had cut the lead to nine with four minutes left.
So now the Pacers head to Atlanta with the series on the line and a whole lot more for the coaching staff and core group of the playing rotation. As Conrad Brunner pointed out, the Pacers are 0-10 when trying to win a playoff series after falling behind 3-2, so the task ahead is brutal. Either they can survive and try to advance to salvage the postseason or we will be in for an interesting and active off season much earlier than anticipated.
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