ATLANTA — The Indiana Pacers had every chance to fold under another barrage of 3-pointers from the Atlanta Hawks on Saturday.
Instead, the Pacers answered and evened a series that has been much closer than many expected.
Indiana guard Paul George scored 24 points and point guard George Hill had his best game of the series in a 91-88 victory at Philips Arena.
The first-round playoff series is tied 2-2 and heads back to Indiana for Game 5 on Monday.
“It’s one of those games where you have to do whatever it takes to win,” Pacers coach Frank Vogel said. “You have to find a way to squeeze out a win.”
Hill, like the rest of the Pacers, has struggled in the series, but he scored 15 points Saturday, including the last basket of the game on a driving layup that put Indiana up three with 56 seconds to play.
Hill also hit one of Indiana’s three 3-pointers in the fourth quarter, right after a 3-pointer from Atlanta point guard Jeff Teague had put the Hawks up five with 4:36 to play.
A game after tying a franchise playoff record for 3-pointers, the Hawks hit 11 more Saturday. But they needed one more and failed to convert on their final three possessions. They went the final four and a half minutes without a field goal.
George added 10 rebounds and five assists, but he missed two free throws that would have put the Pacers up four with seven seconds left.
Atlanta tried to get sharpshooter Kyle Korver the ball on the ensuing inbounds play, but the Pacers denied him and forced Hawks center Pero Antic to throw up a contested 3-pointer. It clanged off the rim as time expired, and the Pacers celebrated at midcourt.
“We knew Korver was the main option,” George said. “George Hill did a great job fighting him over the screen and not letting him come back off the screen. From that point, David West was locked in on his guy, and forced them to take a tough shot.”
Atlanta coach Mike Budenholzer said, “The defense was good. They’re a good defensive team.”
The game, played in front of a sold-out and raucous crowd at Philips Arena, was intense as it went back and forth, featuring 14 lead changes.
Atlanta forward Paul Millsap led the Hawks with 29 points, 18 coming in the first half, and Korver added 15.
“I think we’re still a confident group,” Millsap said. “We let one slip away here. We showed that we go and compete in the games up there. That’s what our mindset is now. We have to let this one go and get ready for Monday.”
The Hawks scored 11 straight points in the second quarter and led by as many as 10 before settling on a 58-52 halftime lead.
The Pacers picked up the intensity in the third quarter, with the bench standing for a long stretch. Hill hit a 3-pointer from the wing to give the Pacers their first lead of the second half, 56-54.
The teams exchanged the lead seven times in the quarter, before George got loose on the baseline and threw down an alley-oop dunk that gave the Pacers a 66-65 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
“I’m tired,” said George, who played more than 43 minutes. “But at this point, whatever Coach needs me to do, I’ll do. This game could have gotten away from us, and we’d be down 3-1. It’s going to be a long series. This team is not going away.”
NOTES: Embattled Indiana C Roy Hibbert scored six points and grabbed and three rebounds in 25 minutes. … After shooting 66.7 percent and scoring 29 points in the first quarter, the Pacers connected on only 5-of-20 shots (25 percent) and scored just 12 points in the second quarter. … Atlanta tied a franchise playoff record by hitting 12 3-pointers in Game 3. The Hawks have made at least 10 3-pointers in the first three games of the series. The Hawks made five 3-pointers in the first half Saturday. … Indiana G Lance Stephenson picked up his second foul only four minutes into the game and then received a technical foul for his reaction. … Hawks C Pero Antic was leading all rookies in the playoffs in scoring (4.7) and rebounding (4.3) entering Saturday’s game. … Game 4 was an announced sellout. … The Pacers were whistled for three shot-clock violations in the first half.
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