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Pacers earn tough Game 4 victory to even series with Hawks

Apr 26, 2014, 5:22 PM EDT

Roy Hibbert, Paul George Roy Hibbert, Paul George

The Hawks had proven to be a bad matchup for these top-seeded Pacers, who came into Game 4 trailing two games to one and not really having a whole lot of answers.

Indiana had shown an inability to adjust, Roy Hibbert had been ineffective to the point where he’d been benched, and Atlanta was playing with a level of confidence that made you believe that one more win, and a commanding series lead along with it, wasn’t out of the question.

But the Pacers solved some of their problems on Saturday, coming away with a gritty 91-88 victory that was anything but easy, and reclaimed home court advantage by evening the series at two games apiece.

This was a game that required resiliency and sense of team to get the job done, and the Pacers battled back time and again in order to be able to succeed. Indiana saw an early eight-point lead erased before pushing it back to seven to end the first. They then scored just 13 second quarter points, and found themselves trailing by double digits just before halftime. The Atlanta lead was 10 midway through the third, before the Pacers fought back to tie it just a few short minutes later.

And in the fourth, Indiana was down by five with 4:37 to play, following a three-pointer by Jeff Teague that felt like it could have been a here-we-go-again moment, if only the Pacers had gone down that dark road once again.

There were sketchy possessions down the stretch from both teams, and it wasn’t a smooth ride. But back-to-back three-pointers from Paul George and David West put the Pacers up for good with just over two minutes remaining, and a drive from George Hill with 56 seconds left was the game’s final score.

Again, it was far from easy. When Indiana had a chance to seal it at the free throw line late, George missed two free throws that left the door open for a potential disaster. But a forced three from Pero Antic was missed on the final possession, and the end result will be all that matters for a Pacers team that was facing desperation.

What may be potentially even bigger than the victory is the chemistry that was apparent as the Pacers fought to stay alive. Hibbert didn’t play down the stretch for the second consecutive game, but was cheering wildly on the sidelines anytime his teammates made a positive play. Lance Stephenson was seen as the voice of reason at one point, trying to calm his teammates from celebrating too excessively after West’s huge three, knowing that there was plenty of work that still needed to be done.

George had the type of game that made us marvel at his skill set during last year’s Eastern Conference Finals, finishing with 24 points, 10 rebounds, five assists and a couple of blocked shots, while shooting 10-of-18 from the field in almost 44 minutes of action.

This feels like a building block game for the Pacers, especially with two of the final three games of the series (if it should go seven) being played on their home floor. The league’s top defense during the regular season looked like it for extended stretches in this one, and the chemistry that was missing for the last two months appeared to return just in time to save Indiana’s season.

  1. dolphindubs - Apr 26, 2014 at 5:44 PM

    Teague lost the Hawks that game down the stretch. There was 4 straight series at the end of the game, with the Hawks leading, that he basically played iso ball. Dribbled it til the shot clock was down then shot it. Got away from the good ball movement that they needed and was working.

    On to Game 5!

  2. antistratfordian - Apr 26, 2014 at 6:12 PM

    I was just telling some confident Hawks supporter how elusive 3-1 can be and how quickly one game can change your outlook.

    You go into game 4 up 2-1 thinking, “Pfffft. We got this. Once we push it to 3-1 it’s curtains! Let’s go Hawks!” – but then you lose game 4. That turns game 5 into something that feels a lot like a must win.

    The emotional tables completely turned in an instant after David West hit that three, perhaps.

    • adamsjohn714 - Apr 26, 2014 at 6:24 PM

      I don’t know if the Hawks are really in trouble. The Pacers shot pretty well and turned it over very little. They played a pretty good game and the Hawks were right there. Plus, there’s no such thing as momentum in the NBA. Winning any one game doesn’t give you any greater statistical chance of winning the next.

      • antistratfordian - Apr 26, 2014 at 6:30 PM

        Well that’s the thing. In just a few hours it went from “This series is already over” to “I don’t know if the Hawks are really in trouble.”

        But the Hawks are really going to be in trouble if they fall to 2-3.

      • adamsjohn714 - Apr 26, 2014 at 6:32 PM

        Well, yeah. But the Pacers are really going to be in trouble if they fall to 2-3. It’s a toss up series, and the Pacers played pretty well and barely won. I’d be slightly more concerned if I was in their camp right now.

        I don’t know who was saying the series was over when it was 2-1 Hawks. That’s ridiculous.

  3. jzone954 - Apr 26, 2014 at 6:44 PM

    I’ve never seen a worse ending to a playoff game as far as empty possessions to close out a game then I did ATL completely blow the end of this game. I mean were there even play calls ? The hawks looked like they literally had no idea what to do there last couple possessions.

  4. davidly - Apr 26, 2014 at 6:55 PM

    It’s always been this way, but the Net has jacked it up a lot: They call you the fave, but if you lose game 1 at home, they say game 2 is a must win. The only must win is when your opponent has three wins; but everybody’s gotta be the one who called it.

  5. tmdill18 - Apr 26, 2014 at 8:12 PM

    The Pacers were the better team and this should have been a much easier win. George has controlled Teague and that is making the difference. Pacers in 6.

  6. jimeejohnson - Apr 26, 2014 at 8:40 PM

    Pacers have a date with destiny. Whether they show up is another story. I hope they do, not that I dislike the Hawks. That bald guy with the mean beard reminds me of Satan, and who doesn’t have sympathy for the devil. Whadya mean, “nope”!

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