The Indiana Pacers shouldn’t feel too good about themselves. Yes, they found the formula of playing small: Luis Scola on the floor instead of Roy Hibbert, while Paul George and David West had big leadership and clutch moments. However, you couldn’t shake the feeling that the Atlanta Hawks, losing 91-88 as the series is now tied at 2-2, let this one slip away from them.
The Hawks don’t have too many offensive weapons or variety to surprise the Pacers with. They simply stick to a few things, and have been doing them pretty well so far. Shooting from beyond the arc with five players on the floor might have been their biggest key, but by using Scola and not Hibbert, the Pacers had someone who could chance Paul Millsap around instead of feeling awkward any time he’s pulled away from the paint.
The Hawks shot only 11-of-31 from 3-point range and an awful 35.7% from the field. Players like Mike Scott made only 4-of-15 from the field and it looked like the Hawks got stuck. How? The Pacers moved Paul George to guard Jeff Teague, and eliminate almost entirely, especially in the second half, Teague’s tendency to penetrate and wreck havoc by tearing the Pacers defense apart. Teague finished with 15 points and 7 assists, but only 5-of-15 from the field.
George hit the biggest shot of the game with a 3-pointer coming off a screen to put the Pacers in the lead for good with 2:11 left in the game. That was followed with a stop and another 3-point from the same spot, this time hit by David West. George led the Pacers with 24 points, 10 rebounds and 5 assists. West finished with 18 points and George Hill really helped out with some big shots of his own, finishing the game scoring 15 points.
Thanks to their defense the Pacers got out into transition a lot more than usual, outscoring the Hawks 20-6. The Pacers were one of the worst transition teams in the NBA during the regular season, but that wasn’t a problem in game 4 as they scored 19 points on the fast break and shot a surprising 48.1% from the field, with Lance Stephenson being the only player that offensively wasn’t on part with the rest of his teammates.
Millsap had a great game, especially early on. He finished with 29 points and was making life impossible for Roy Hibbert early on. But foul trouble seemed to hurt his rhythm in the second half, and the Hawks never got something really special going in the fourth quarter. A 3-pointer here and there, but nothing that seemed to make a very resolved Pacers team (for a chance) sink to a new low, and we’ve seen some low moments from them recently.
Favorites to win the series? Has to be the Pacers now. Home court advantage is theirs once more, and it seems like their mental block offensively has been removed. They aren’t the Spurs or the Mavs all of a sudden – this is still a team that lives and dies with its defense and stops, but they’ve finally looked like a team that knows how to run set plays for more than one quarter, and it seems that might be enough to get past the limited Hawks.