At times it was the prettiest of basketball for both the Indiana Pacers and the Atlanta Hawks, and at other times it was enough to make an entire coaching staff cry. In the end, the Hawks squeezed out a 102-91 Game 4 victory on Monday night to even the series at two.
The Hawks outscored the Pacers 35-19 in the second quarter to take a 17-point lead at half, and seemed well on their way to an easy victory. After a shaky third quarter, the Hawks regrouped in the fourth to even the series and send the Pacers to their 13th straight loss in Atlanta.
Josh Smith kept attacking the rim even during the Hawks' poor third quarter, leading Atlanta with 29 points and 11 rebounds. It could have been a much larger lead, but the Hawks continued to struggle from the free-throw line, shooting 25-of-38.
The Pacers limited Al Horford to a certain degree after his 26-point, 12-rebound effort in Game 3. Horford watched much of the third quarter from the bench because of foul trouble, and he finished the night with 18 points and five rebounds.
The Pacers kept it together for almost the entire first quarter, but the wheels came off for Indiana with a little over two and a half minutes remaining. The Pacers held a seven-point lead at 21-14, but the Hawks stormed back to end the quarter, taking a 22-21 point lead on a last-second Devin Harris shot. The Pacers opened the second quarter as cold as the Hawks were hot. When the dust had settled, the Hawks went on a 22-3 run to take a commanding lead into halftime. During the run, the Hawks hit 7-of-10 shots and the Pacers went just 1-of-8 from the floor.
The Pacers' defense did not resemble their regular season unit, which ranked as one of the best. The Pacers defense looked confused at times, and although the Hawks hit six straight three-pointers at one point during the first half, many of those threes were wide-open shots. There is no denying that most members of the Hawks were feeling the shooting touch, but the Pacers defense wasn't helping the cause at all.
The tables turned in the third quarter though, as the Pacers went on a 15-1 run to cut the lead to seven points after Horford picked up his fourth foul with 8:25 left in the quarter. The Hawks had trouble getting their half-court offense going without Devin Harris on the floor. Harris spent time in the locker room getting an IV drip during halftime because of dehydration and didn't see the floor until five minutes were left in the third.
Atlanta got complacent with the outside shot after shooting so well in the second quarter. They went just 3-of-21 in the third quarter, as the Pacers turned up the aggression to close the gap to a manageable number. The Pacers dominated inside, outscoring the Hawks 18-4 in the paint in the third.
The Pacers kept it within striking distance throughout much of the fourth quarter, but Smith and Kyle Korver hit consecutive three-pointers towards the end to put the crowd on their feet and seal the deal. The Hawks' bench was huge throughout the game, with Korver and Anthony Tolliver hitting eight three-pointers.
Game 5 is scheduled for Wednesday night in Indianapolis. Tipoff has yet to be announced.