Basketball / Sports

The Atlanta Hawks' Mike Scott (32) takes the ball to the basket for two points against Indiana Pacers defender Ian Mahinmi in the first half of Game 4 of an NBA Eastern Conference quarterfinal at Philips Arena in Atlanta, Saturday, April 26, 2014. (Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution/MCT)

Paul George back on target for Pacers

The highlight shows will focus on Paul George's offensive prowess, including his 3-point shot that put the Pacers ahead for good against the Hawks on Saturday.

Less flashy, but just as important, was George's late-game defense against Hawks point guard Jeff Teague. Telling, too, is that video of Indiana's 91-88 victory over the Hawks will show George on the court for all but four minutes and 21 seconds.

The Pacers tied the best-of-seven Eastern Conference playoff series 2-2. They took back home-court advantage in the series because George hardly left the court and was the best player at both ends when it mattered most.

"Tired," George said afterward. "But at this point, whatever Coach needs from me I'm going to do."

For all the speculation about the Pacers' psyche amid their late-season swoon, what they really needed was for George to regain his All-Star form. In both Pacers victories this series, George reminded why he's considered one of the league's rising superstars.

During Indiana's Game 2 romp, George had 27 points, 10 rebounds and six assists and helped slow Teague after the point guard dominated Game 1. With the Pacers desperately needing a victory in Game 4, George had 24 points, 10 rebounds, five assists, two blocked shots and seemingly endless energy.

George was on the bench to start the second quarter, checked back in 7:39 before halftime and never checked back out.

"He missed a couple 3's, and I thought about (taking him out)," Pacers coach Frank Vogel said. "But against this team when they have the speed they have out there with Teague or (Kyle) Korver, he has to play, at least for the defensive end. Everyone looks at his offensive numbers, but he's guarding an elite point guard all night and doing all of the intangibles."

George got the assignment against Teague after it became clear early in the series that guard George Hill wasn't up to the task. George is 6-foot-8, but plenty athletic enough to keep up with even a quick point guard like Teague.

In the second half of Game 4, Teague was 2-of-5 from the field, with six points and three turnovers. George scored 11 of Indiana's 24 points in the third quarter, when the Hawks led by as many as 10 points, and then made important plays late.

The Pacers cut their deficit to 85-83 when George set up Luis Scola for a jump shot. George forced a miss by Teague late in the shot clock on the Hawks' next possession, and after Scola botched a layup and David West missed two free throws, George made his biggest shot.

Taking a screen handoff from West, George got a couple of steps ahead of DeMarre Carroll and made a 3-pointer for an 86-85 lead with 2:11 to play.

"Coach drew that (play) to free me up for the 3-pointer," George said. "My number was called, and I had to deliver."

George then helped harass Teague into a bad pass for a turnover, leading to West's 3-pointer. George's only hiccups were two missed free throws with 7.5 seconds to play, but Indiana's lead held when the Hawks had to settle for a forced 3-point attempt by Pero Antic on their last possession.

"This game could have got away from us and we'd be down 3-1," George said. "It's going to be a long series. This team is not going away. We've just got to build some consistency."

(c)2014 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Atlanta, Ga.)

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Distributed by MCT Information Services

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