INDIANAPOLIS -- The Indiana Pacers went from being knocked around by the Toronto Raptors and being angry about what had been a nasty one-sided affair the past two games to finally being the aggressors.
The Pacers set the tone in the first quarter, when they delivered the early blows, and didn’t let up on Toronto in their 100-83 victory, which evened the series at 2-2.
As good and as entertaining as Paul George's heroic efforts have been at times for the Pacers, it took a 16-point loss in Game 3 for the All-Star forward to realize he can’t beat the Raptors by himself.
He needed help, because trying to play the hero role wasn't getting it done. Coach Frank Vogel and his staff emphasized less standing around and more ball movement. Vogel wanted a balanced attack and more energy.
Check and check.
The message sunk in so much that George, the best player through the first three games, wasn’t the Pacers’ high scorer on Saturday.
That honor went to George Hill and Ian Mahinmi, who each scored 22 points. Vogel altered his starting lineup by inserting Myles Turner; the rookie was only 2-of-13 from the field, but his energy and ability to help keep Raptors center Jonas Valanciunas off the glass was felt early on. The Pacers led by as many as 14 points in the first quarter and had nine assists on 12 field goals in the opening period.
That unselfishness led to quality shots for the Pacers. They were 17-of-25 on open shots, according to ESPN Stats & Information data. The Pacers outrebounded the Raptors 43-40 and did not trail while building their lead to as many as 25 points by pushing the tempo at every opportunity.
“This was how I wanted this team to respond, how I wanted us to respond to the Game 3 loss,” said George, who had 19 points. “I thought we were very pissed off and very attentive and very focused to even the series out. We knew we let one go in Game 3 and had a great opportunity to go up in the series.
Hill, who went to high school and college in Indianapolis, for years has heard the criticism about not being the point guard to lead the Pacers. He’s at his best -- and the Pacers are their best -- when he's attacking and not playing passive. He was passive offensively through most of the first three games, because he was focusing on defending All-Star Raptors guard Kyle Lowry.
Hill flipped things around by attacking Lowry and the rest of the Raptors guards repeatedly. Hill made his first six field goal attempts and played a part in Lowry picking up two first-quarter fouls.
“With G Hill, he can be as good as he wants to be on both ends of the floor,” George said. “We need him to be offensively looking to get his. It’s only going to make it easier because George is very smart, very crafty offensively. When he’s getting going, getting aggressive going to the basket, he has all the options to make the late pass, throwing it out for 3s or making little flip shots in the paint. When he’s going, it makes it so much better.”
Mahinmi spent portions of the game running and jumping like he was 60 years old because of a bad back. But the 29-year-old found enough in him to register career playoff highs in points and rebounds (10), while helping to neutralize Toronto's big men in the paint.
"[My back is] not the best right now," Mahinmi said. "I'm going through ups and downs. There are times when I feel 100 percent and times less. I can't take credit for this. Most of the shots were dunks and shots under the rim. My teammates did an awesome job of finding me."
George's teammates helped him out so much that he walked out of Bankers Life Fieldhouse with the intention of getting on his boat to go fishing for some crappie and bass.
"I will be on the water," he said.
George is able to do that when he doesn't have to carry the load and, more importantly, when the Pacers win the game.