Atlanta Hawks 98, Indiana Pacers 85—Atlanta leads series, 2-1
The Atlanta Hawks continue to shock the basketball world by beating the No. 1 seed Indiana Pacers, 98-85, on Thursday night.
The Pacers and Hawks came out with one of the worst halves of the entire playoffs, which ended in a 39-38 lead for Atlanta.
Star Indiana forward Paul George picked up two quick fouls, sat early and struggled for the rest of the half, scoring zero points. His fellow 2014 All-Star, center Roy Hibbert, fared little better, with four points (on 2-of-9 shooting) and no rebounds.
According to the Indianapolis Star's Candace Buckner, Hibbert was getting outplayed by his backup, Ian Mahinmi: "Just mind-blowing that with heart and energy, Ian Mahinmi has thoroughly outplayed Roy Hibbert this series. Both are offensive wastelands, but one actually plays like he's trying."
However, according to Buckner, Pacers head coach Frank Vogel said he'd "probably" start Hibbert in Game 4.
"I have confidence in Roy Hibbert," Vogel said, according to the Pacers' official Twitter account. "He hasn't played well in this series to this point. But I do have great confidence in Roy."
As for the Hawks, they fell prey to a horrific three-point shooting slump, hitting just two of their 16 attempts from beyond the arc.
Fortunately, Atlanta immediately remedied that problem in the third quarter, splashing six threes. Reserve guard Lou Williams hit two, including a clutch bomb with 1.2 seconds left which staked the Hawks to a nine-point lead.
Vogel was forced to go away from his conventional lineup in the fourth, benching Hibbert in favor of a more offense-heavy frontcourt of David West and Luis Scola. The move paid immediate dividends, as the Pacers went on an 11-4 run.
Lance Stephenson and Scola were magnificent for Indiana in the final frame, scoring 12 points apiece.
But the Hawks still had Jeff Teague, who buried the Pacers with 11 fourth-quarter points, including a back-breaking three that probably shouldn't have counted.
With 2:49 remaining and the Hawks up six, Teague appeared to to be trapped in the corner with the shot clock running out. But the guard rose up and hit a miraculous three over a defender to put Atlanta up nine.
The referees went back to review the play, and Teague's foot appeared to land out of bounds before the shot. Unfortunately for the Pacers, league rules stipulate that they can't change an out-of-bounds call before the two-minute mark.
Paul George, Pacers: 12 PTS, 14 REB, 4 AST
Lance Stephenson, Pacers: 21 PTS, 13 REB, 4 AST, 3 STL
Roy Hibbert, Pacers: 4 PTS, 2 REB
Paul Millsap, Hawks: 14 PTS, 14 REB
Jeff Teague, Hawks: 22 PTS, 2 REB, 10 AST
The series will continue in Atlanta, with Game 4 taking place on Saturday at 2 p.m. ET. The game will be televised nationally on TNT.
The Pacers are a team at a crossroads. They fully expected to compete for a title, and probably still do. But that doubt has the be creeping in on them.
Frank Vogel will have to decide what to do with Hibbert, who was once again a non-factor. The Pacers had a brief flicker of success in the fourth quarter while riding the hot hand of Scola, who has been the Pacers' biggest offensive threat by far in this series.
Will the Pacers continue cutting Hibbert's minutes in what will be a must-win Game 4?