Another day, another Atlanta sports heartbreak.
After an up-and-down and often-sloppy first three quarters of play, neither the Hawks or Pacers seemed to be on fire. It wasn't until a Mike Scott dunk late in the third that the crowd maximized its full potential, and the Hawks took home court advantage and a 67-64 lead into the fourth.
There the Hawks continued to react well, opening up as much as a five-point lead midway through the fourth.
But, as any Atlanta fan will tell you, things were almost too good to be true. A well-executed George Hill layup gave the Pacers a 85-84 advantage, but Lance Stephenson followed with a loose ball foul. With 1:24 left on the clock, Pero Antic made 1-of-2 free throws to tie it up at 85, and the Hawks were never to get close to winning again.
The following Hawks possession, Lou Williams inexplicably drove then turned to kick it out to Jeff Teague. Paul George, who finished with 24 points and eight rebounds as he continues to be the backbone of Indiana, picked it off and was immediately fouled by Williams.
George, of course, made both with only 33.8 left on the clock. More sloppy play and fouls resulted in two more trips to the line as the Pacers sealed the win.
"We got stagnant on the offensive end; we stopped playing with a lot of pace and movement," Teague said. "When we do that, it's easy to guard."
The Hawks, while getting decent looks at shots, had their worst shooting performance of the series. Atlanta made 9-of-35 from 3 and just 35.8% overall. Antic was 1-of-7 and made zero of his four 3 attempts.
Another lowlight was a tiff between Scott and Hill in the second, where an elbow from Scott ended with the two separate as Hill shoved his fingers in Mike's eyes. Double technicals were assessed, plus a common foul on Scott. George and another Pacer may have stepped off the bench during the scuffle, and it may be reviewed by the NBA in advance of Game 7.
The Hawks, to their credit, rebounded well in the first half and went into the break down five.
The home loss on Saturday felt deflating, and tonight was even worse. On a day full of excitement over the new Pacman logo and palpable energy in Philips Arena, it sure is a shame to have to go back to Indiana to try to oust the No. 1 seed.
Teague, after finishing with 29 points, says it's possible.
Oh, we needed that victory. That crowd was incredible, for them to come out and support like that tonight, we owe them a victory. ... We’re a confident group, so we know we can bounce back. We know we can get a win. It’s just what we have to do.
Let's hope so, Jeff. Saturday will be a tall task.