The No. 1-seed Indiana Pacers continued their spectacular descent Thursday, losing 98-85 in Game 3 of their first-round series against the Atlanta Hawks, who lead the series 2-1.
It was another lackluster effort from the team that, most of the season, looked prime to knock off the defending champion Miami Heat. Now, it will be a struggle to get out of the first round.
Point guard Jeff Teague flung in a wild 3-pointer after the officials missed him stepping out of bounds in a crucial play that broke Indiana’s morale and lifted the Hawks’.
The Hawks were up 84-78 with the shot clock running down, when Teague launched a running shot from the wing — after his foot clipped the line. Looking up to see the clock running down, he dribbled to his left and threw it up with Luis Scola in his face. Nothing but net. Teague smiled and shrugged his shoulders on the way back down the court, as surprised as anyone that it went in.
“I gave it the Jordan shrug because I thought it was going to be an air ball.” Teague said. “It didn’t feel good coming off my hand, but once it went in I was pretty confident it was our night.
“It was a lucky shot, but, we created our own luck by being aggressive and never giving up on ourselves. We aren’t playing like we have nothing to lose; we’re playing to win and we want this series.”
Said guard Kyle Korver: “A lot of times those plays that you draw up don’t work the way that you want them to. You improvise and sometimes you throw stuff up as the shot clock’s coming down and it goes in. I’m glad that it happened for us and not for them.”
David West of the Pacers admitted the shot was devastating.
“What they said was that if you step out of bounds and then step back in bounds and shoot it, they’re looking at the last step. So even though (Jeff) Teague was out of bounds with his first step, his second step was back in bounds,” West said. “That play was a killer. It put us down by nine and took the wind out of our sails.”
Game 4 is Saturday in Atlanta.