Skip to content

PBT NBA Playoff Preview: Atlanta Hawks vs. Indiana Pacers

Apr 19, 2013, 9:52 AM EST

Indiana Pacers players stand during a time out in an NBA basketball game in Indianapolis Reuters

SEASON RECORDS
Atlanta: 44-38, six seed in East
Indiana: 49-32, third seed in East

SEASON SERIES
Tied at 2-2. The Hawks won the first two, the Pacers the final two.

KEY INJURIES
Atlanta: The Hawks will be without Zaza Pachulia (Achilles surgery) and Lou Williams (ACL).

Indiana: Danny Granger is still out following left knee surgery, but he has been out almost all season.

OFFENSE/DEFENSE RANKINGS (points per 100 possession)
Hawks: offense 102.7 (15th in NBA) defense 101.8 (10th in)
Pacers: offense 101.6 (19th in NBA), defense 96.6 (1st in NBA)

Differential: Pacers +5 (6th in NBA), Hawks +0.9 (13th in NBA)

THREE KEYS FOR ATLANTA

Jeff Teague: Atlanta always seems to be waiting for Teague to be aggressive. And when he is the Hawks are a much better team. Both Teague and Devin Harris are going to have to have a big series here — look back at the two Hawks regular season wins over the Pacers and you see Lou Williams carve up the Pacers defense, breaking them down and making plays. Williams is out after knee surgery, now Teague and Harris have to take over that role.

Hit their midrange looks: What the Pacers do on defense is follows the Spurs model — protect the paint, run guys off the three point line and make you take the less efficient midrange shots. It’s a good strategy. But you can put points on the board if you can knock down midrange shots and the Hawks are going to get a lot of those looks. Hit them Atlanta can do damage.

Al Horford: He can knock down midrange shots, which helps with the point above. But it is more than that — Horford’s ability to play away from the basket should draw Roy Hibbert out of the paint some, opening up driving lanes for Teague and Harris. Whether running the 4/5 pick-and-roll or just in the flow of the offense he is going to have to score a lot, defend like a beast on Brook Lopez and have a monster series for the Hawks to have a chance.

THREE KEYS FOR INDIANA

Get their defensive groove back: On the season, the Pacers have the best defense in the NBA. But in past few weeks they have not been — in the final 10 games of the season they allowed 105.3 points per 100 possessions. That is nearly 9 points per 100 more than their season average. Put simply, they don’t score enough for their defense to be anything less than elite.

George Hill: You know the Pacers are going to get offense from David West, as solid pick-and-pop big as there is in the league. Paul George will get his. But the Pacers need more offense to come from somewhere and the most likely candidate is George Hill. He averaged 14.2 points a game in the regular season, if he can have a couple big games against the Hawks the Pacers are much closer to advancing.

Limit turnovers: The Indiana Pacers turn the ball over 16.2 percent of their possessions, second highest percentage in the league. The top spot on the list goes to the Houston Rockets, but they play a fast-and-loose style and can make it up more easily. For the Pacers every possession has to be more precious in their grind-it-out style and they need to take better care of the ball. It’s the Pacers’ bigs that need to change this — David West and Roy Hibbert each average more than two turnovers a game, they need to get that number down. Lance Stephenson is the other guy that can’t have one of those games.

OUTLOOK

This is the least anticipated of the first round matchups. This is going to be the NBA TV series because nobody will be watching. On one side you have the favorite that shuts other teams down but can’t really score themselves. On the other side you have a Hawks team where we feel like we’ve seen this movie before — be physical with them, play hard and they retreat.

Hawks GM Danny Ferry is remaking this roster — he traded Joe Johnson to Brooklyn last summer and this summer they are going to watch Josh Smith walk. This feels like a team that is crumbling and down the stretch they went 4-6 in their last 10. They seemed disinterested. It feels like if the Pacers get a couple early wins the Hawks will start making golf reservations.

I expect the Pacers to get their defensive groove back and smother the Hawks, but that’s the key. If the Pacers play like they did the last 10 or so games of the season — if they don’t defend — the Hawks will be right in this series. And the Hawks have talent, Horford and Smith will have huge games if they get the space to operate.

I just don’t see that happening. I see physical, low scoring, grinding gams that are exactly the way the Pacers want them. I see their defense just throwing a blanket over the Hawks while Paul George and David West give them enough to win.

PREDICTION:

Pacers in 5.

Latest Posts
  1. Blake Griffin with dagger tip-in to lift Clippers past Bucks (VIDEO)

    Dec 21, 2014, 8:00 AM EST

    Blake Griffin, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Chris Paul AP

    The Bucks went heavy with Brandon Knight at the end of the game. That went about as well as you’d expect.

  2. Rajon Rondo’s career highlights with the Celtics (VIDEO)

    Dec 20, 2014, 10:30 PM EST

    Rajon Rondo Rajon Rondo

    A final look back at Rondo’s time in Boston as he gets set to make his debut with Dallas.

  3. Report: Cavaliers GM passed on trading for Corey Brewer, hopes to add defensive big man instead

    Dec 20, 2014, 9:00 PM EST

    David Griffin AP

    Cavaliers are tied with the Pistons for 23rd in defensive efficiency.

  4. Report: Kings discussing trade for Deron Williams with Nets

    Dec 20, 2014, 7:11 PM EST

    New Jersey Nets practice 05/07/2014 AP

    Kings are looking to make a splash, and Williams has been made available in trade by the Nets.

  5. Report: Multiple teams contacting Suns trying to trade for Goran Dragic

    Dec 20, 2014, 6:30 PM EST

    Phoenix Suns Media Day Phoenix Suns Media Day

    Dragic will opt out of the final year of his deal to become an unrestricted free agent this summer.

  6. Jeremy Lin after Kobe misses at the buzzer: ‘I like game-winners too’

    Dec 20, 2014, 9:30 AM EST

    Memphis Grizzlies v Los Angeles Lakers Getty Images

    Lin understands why Bryant always gets the ball in these situations, but admits he’d like to get some opportunities.

  7. Serge Ibaka blocks Carlos Boozer at the rim, does Mutombo finger wag (VIDEO)

    Dec 20, 2014, 8:00 AM EST

    Serge Ibaka, Carlos Boozer AP

    As the Thunder ended up winning by one, 104-103, this block ended up being very important.

  8. Damian Lillard drops career high 43, leads Blazers to 3OT win over Spurs (VIDEO)

    Dec 20, 2014, 2:07 AM EST

    Damian Lillard AP

    Lillard needs to get mentioned with the game’s top point guards.

  9. Former No. 2 overall pick Darko Milicic loses first kickboxing fight (VIDEO)

    Dec 20, 2014, 12:02 AM EST

    Former NBA player now trying to make his way as a fighter.

  10. Danny Ainge says uncertainty about Celtics’ ability to re-sign Rajon Rondo prompted trade to Dallas

    Dec 19, 2014, 10:50 PM EST

    Danny Ainge AP

    There are a whole host of reasons Rondo was traded; this is just the most convenient for Boston’s brass.

Featured video

Jabari Parker injury latest for disappointing rookie class
Top 10 NBA Player Searches
  1. K. Martin (6948)
  2. C. Bosh (6947)
  3. R. Rondo (6478)
  4. T. Parker (6343)
  5. K. Durant (6253)
  1. T. Jones (6151)
  2. A. Bogut (6117)
  3. M. Smart (6068)
  4. D. Favors (5942)
  5. D. Lee (5786)