Stop me if you've heard this before: the Hawks got into an early deficit in the first quarter on Saturday afternoon's game against the Pacers. And as usual, the Hawks came back to tie it up and eventually lead at halftime.
The script didn't play out the same as Games 1, 2, and 3. The third quarter wasn't the decisive quarter for the first time this series. The Pacers led 66-65 going into the fourth, leading to an intense final 12 for the first time in four games against Indiana.
The Hawks took an eight-point lead with 7:31 remaining on back-to-back 3s from Kyle Korver and Jeff Teague. The Pacers crept back to to shorten it to two points in the final five minutes of play.
Mike Scott drew a foul, nailed both free throws, and gave Atlanta an 85-81 lead with 3:56 to play. The Pacers called for a timeout then closed the gap to two on a Scola jumper. David West drew a DeMarre Caroll foul with 2:41 to play but missed both free throws.
Paul George buried a 3 to give the Pacers a one-point lead with 2:11 to play, and West followed with one of his own after a turnover by Teague.
With a four-point deficit and 1:33 to play, Korver missed a 3 but drew a foul from West. Nailing all three, the Pacers answered with a George Hill layup to put Indiana up 91-88. Paul Millsap turned it over on a sloppy possession. Korver and Carroll dove after it on Indiana's end, got a jump ball called, and the Hawks gained possession with 13.3 to play.
Millsap, who finished with 29 points, seven rebounds, three blocks, two assists and one steal, missed a short floater as the Pacers swarmed to give Indiana the ball back with 8.1 to play. Carroll was quickly called for a foul in what looked like a clean steal, and George missed both free throws. Carroll grabbed the ball with 6.9 remaining.
After a quick timeout, the Hawks had another chance, but Indiana's defense stifled practically any options the Hawks would've had. Pero Antic launched and missed a desperation 3 to seal the game.
The Hawks hung on tight as the Pacers finally looked like a No. 1 seed again for the first time since Game 2, but it wasn't enough to overcome the back-to-back 3s by George and West.
Mike Budenholzer was quick to give credit to the effort his team gave. "Our group competed tonight and put themselves in position to win," he said. "Our execution wasn't where we needed to be, and we'll work on that. We'll look to improve as we execute down the stretch. ... If we can keep competing like we competed tonight, that's what we're looking for."
George finished with 24 points on 10-of-18 shooting, 10 rebounds and five assists as he played over 43 minutes. Pacers head coach Frank Vogel contemplated reducing his minutes as he missed a couple 3s in the second half but kept him in which led to George ultimately hitting the game-winning shot.
On an sold-out afternoon where Korver surpassed his previous playoff-record of rebounds to nab 9 and Jeff Teague continued his Playoff Teague play with 15 aggressive points and seven rebounds, the final few minutes completely deflated the previously raucous crowd.
A highlight of the loss was Atlanta going a perfect 17-of-17 at the line, keeping them in the game and also setting a franchise record with the first perfect free-throw performance in playoff history.
With one more home game for certain, hopefully Atlanta can continue to show up as the Hawks keep it close in a series where nearly everyone counted them out.