Indiana Pacers Barely Top Atlanta Hawks To Tie Series, Paul George Struggles In The Clutch

By Mike De Moor
Paul George Indiana Pacers Game 4
Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

The Indiana Pacers were supposed to slaughter the eight-seeded Atlanta Hawks, who were the only playoff team that had a sub-500 record.

Obviously, things aren’t going as planned, but the Pacers did tie the series up at two games apiece Saturday afternoon, giving them home-court advantage for the de-facto three-game series beginning with Game 5 in Indiana on Monday night.

While nursing a four-point lead with 1:24 remaining, the Pacers fouled Kyle Korver while shooting a three. Korver made all three free throws (although he missed the third, but was awarded another one after a lane violation, which he made).

After a George Hill layup gave the Pacers a three-point lead and Paul Milsap missed a baby hook in the lane, it looked like the Pacers had the game in the bag. Paul George, who led Indiana with 24 points, 10 boards and five assists, stepped to the free-throw line with 7.5 seconds remaining with a chance to ice the game. George missed both free throws, giving Atlanta a chance to tie. However, Pero Antic missed a well-defended long ball in the closing seconds, letting George off the hook.

The Pacers have looked desperate all series long, struggling to find any offensive continuity. Roy Hibbert continued his disappointing play in Game 4, scoring just six points and grabbing only three boards in 25 minutes of action. Although Frank Vogel stuck with Hibbert as the starter, Hibbert sat during crunch time, with Vogel giving his minutes to veteran big man Luis Scola.

After dominating the third quarter of Game 2, it seemed like the Pacers were primed to run away with the series, but the Hawks have continued to battle. Why is the series this close? It’s partially due to the matchup (Antic drags Hibbert away from the basket, George doesn’t have a star perimeter player he can shut down defensively), but more than anything else ,this seems like a clear-cut case of the Pacers just not having enough scoring.

Even when Indiana is playing their best basketball, they fail to create separation with the gun-slinging Hawks, who are explosive offensively, but subpar defensively. In all likelihood, the Pacers will be able to escape this series, due mainly to an obvious disparity in talent and experience, but the Pacers’ first-round performance doesn’t bode well for them going forward.

Mike De Moor is an NBA writer for Follow him on Twitter @MikeDeMoor, “like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google.

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