ATLANTA — Indiana Pacers forward Lance Stephenson had just hit a 3-pointer to cut the Atlanta Hawks’ lead to four with 7:30 to play in the fourth quarter. He followed it up by forcing a turnover on Atlanta’s next possession, but slipped and lost the ball out of bounds. It’s been that kind of stretch for the unraveling Pacers. And the upstart Hawks took full advantage.
Atlanta guard Kyle Korver converted a four-point play after Stephenson’s mishandle, swishing a 3-pointer and hitting the ensuing free throw, and the Hawks pulled away in the final minutes of a 98-85 win Thursday in front of inspired crowd at Philips Arena.
The Hawks lead the best-of-seven first-round playoff series, 2-1. Game 4 is Saturday at Philips Arena in Atlanta.
Atlanta hit 10 of their 12 3-pointers in the second half, none more spectacular than point guard Jeff Teague’s runner from in front of his own bench with the shot clock expiring. Teague’s 3-pointer put the Hawks up 87-78 with 2:48 left.
Korver drained his sixth 3-pointer a minute later, the dagger shot that has the Hawks looking to become the sixth No. 8-seed to win their first-round playoff series. Korver finished 20 points, and Teague led all scorers with 22 points.
The Pacers lost again and got subpar performances from their top playmakers. Forward Paul George got in early foul trouble and didn’t score in the first half. He finished with 16 points and 14 rebounds, but scored just three points in the fourth quarter. Center Roy Hibbert had only four points and two rebounds in 19 minutes of action. He sat out for the majority of second half.
The Pacers trailed only 39-38 at halftime. Atlanta’s 30-percent shooting, including 2-for-16 from the 3-point line, helped keep Indiana close. But the Hawks got hot up in the third quarter. Forward DeMarre Carroll was the energizer.
The fourth-year forward out of Missouri hit a pair of 3-pointers and converted a traditional three-point play to help Atlanta’s lead grow to 10. Carroll finished with 18 points.
The Pacers cut into the lead, but Atlanta guard Lou Williams hit a 3-pointer to close out third quarter with the Hawks leading 67-58.
Stephenson led the Pacers with 21 points and fueled Indiana’s last charge, but Atlanta had an answer, sending Indiana to its ninth loss in its last 11 games in Atlanta.
NOTES: After reports surfaced early this week that Pacers coach Frank Vogel was coaching for his job in the playoffs, Indiana general manager Kevin Pritchard took to his Twitter account Thursday to address the rumors. “Larry Bird told me his sources say Frank Vogel’s job is safe,” Pritchard tweeted. … The Hawks are in the playoffs for the seventh consecutive season, the longest streak in the Eastern Conference. … Indiana F Luis Scola and Atlanta F Mike Scott were assessed technical fouls midway through the second quarter, after a brief standoff. … Pacers F Lance Stephenson and G Evan Turner reportedly were involved in an altercation at practice before Game 1 of the series. Both players downplayed the incident and said there were no hard feelings. … Indiana C Roy Hibbert did not have a rebound in the first half. He’s averaged six rebounds in the first two games.
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