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NBA Playoff Preview: Atlanta Hawks vs. Indiana Pacers

Apr 18, 2014, 9:16 PM EST

Indiana Pacers v Atlanta Hawks Getty Images

REGULAR SEASON RECORDS

Atlanta Hawks: 38-44 (8 seed)
Indiana Pacers: 56-26 (1 seed)

KEY INJURIES

Andrew Bynum hasn’t played since March 15, and the Pacers have officially ruled him out from participating in this series. Nothing new for the Hawks — Al Horford, Gustavo Ayon and John Jenkins have all been out for the season due to injury for a while now.

OFFENSE/DEFENSE RANKINGS (points per 100 possessions)

Atlanta Hawks: Offense 103.4 (15th in the NBA). Defense 104.1 (14th in the NBA)

Indiana Pacers: Offense 101.5 (22nd in the NBA), Defense 96.7 (1st in the NBA)

THREE KEYS TO THE SERIES

1. Can Roy Hibbert get right? Hibbert started off the season on a Defensive Player of the Year pace, protecting the rim for the league’s top defense. He still may win the award, despite his personal (and the Pacers overall) drop-off since the All-Star break. But Hibbert’s honestly been a shell of himself on both ends of the floor recently, and with the Hawks starting Pero Antic at center who shoots 3.4 three-pointers per game, Hibbert is going to have his hands full if he’s the one responsible for that matchup. Whether it’s Antic or not, however, Hibbert needs to use this series against a weaker opponent to get himself back to anchoring the defense that his team will need to rely on in the postseason’s later rounds.

2. Atlanta’s three-point shooting: The Hawks were second in the league in three-pointers attempted during the regular season, averaging 25.8 per game which was second only to the Houston Rockets. They also feature the best shooter in the game from beyond the arc in Kyle Korver, who knocked down his shots from distance at a league-best 47.2 percent on the season. This is what Atlanta does, but they’ll need to do it much better against a Pacers team that doesn’t allow points in the paint very easily. Despite averaging the second most attempts from beyond the arc during the season, the Hawks converted them at a rate that was good enough for only 13th in the league — that number has got to go way up for Atlanta to have a chance at extending this series.

3. Indiana’s intensity: The Pacers were shot out of a cannon to begin the season, determined to make sure that they would finish the year with home court advantage throughout the Eastern Conference playoffs after losing a Game 7 in Miami last season. Indiana achieved its goal, but stumbled to the finish line and compiled a record of just 16-14 since the All-Star break. The Pacers saw just how dangerous Atlanta can be when you don’t come mentally prepared, and were shellacked by the Hawks by 19 points back on April 6 in a game that wasn’t nearly that close. The Pacers will need to regain the swagger and team offensive cohesiveness that they proved capable of in the first half of the season.

PREDICTION

This really comes down to Indiana proving that they are still the best defensive team in the league, and using that to fuel an offense that struggles plenty in its half court sets. The Hawks likely light it up at least one game, but there shouldn’t be enough there to sustain success against a Pacers team that is built for the playoffs.

Pacers in 5.

  1. lakerade - Apr 18, 2014 at 9:26 PM

    Sweep. The Pacers awaken.

  2. lakerade - Apr 18, 2014 at 9:28 PM

    That’s what I want to see anyway, sloppiness makes it go 5… 6? Ugh.

  3. trbowman - Apr 18, 2014 at 9:29 PM

    People seem to think Atlanta has a chance to actually compete in this series.

    Lol.

    Won’t win a game.

    • kinggw - Apr 18, 2014 at 9:55 PM

      Why wouldn’t they? One good game against OKC in which just about everything went right for the Pacers doesn’t mean we should expect to see the pre-All star break Pacers.

      They are still a good team, but also a very flawed team. Not even two weeks ago the Hawks embarrassed the Pacers on their home floor. The Hawks won’t be intimidated by the Pacers. I don’t expect them to win more than one game but I don’t think were going to see a bunch of blowouts either.

    • crdeat0786 - Apr 19, 2014 at 12:21 AM

      You’re an idiot did you not see the hawks destroy the Pacers on their home court the last time they met? Guess u don’t follow either of these teams. To say that Atlanta doesn’t win a game is very idiotic. I believe the hawks will embarrass the Pacers and win the series in 5 games. Meanwhile the media is on how Indiana fell apart not giving the Hawks the credit they deserve of course as Atlanta franchises are normally not nationally credited. Well I will be back to call you an idiot once again when the hawks win this series and ESPN is not giving an Atlanta franchise any credit once again. I have $100 dollars online that I am right. But my $100 turns in to $500 when I am right about this series. Vegas thank you so much for free $. :)

    • ozarkannie74 - Apr 19, 2014 at 4:24 PM

      Thats what people have been saying about Hawks all year – don’t sell them short – seed # doesn’t mean much in playoffs.

  4. wwttww - Apr 18, 2014 at 10:36 PM

    Hawks in 7 ya dig

    • spthegr8 - Apr 19, 2014 at 9:38 AM

      ^^^ No I don’t. Pacers in 5. This isn’t going any further that that.!! ^^

  5. mannyicey - Apr 19, 2014 at 8:13 AM

    This is going to be interesting. The reason why is because there are two keys here:

    1. Roy Hibbert. If he can play within his comfort zone, the Pacers should win every game. But it never really happens with the Hawks because the Hawks plays differently. See, they have this guy, Antic. He’s a Center, but he loves the 3. He’s a difficult matchup because Hibbert’s not going out there. He’s going to stay in the box and that causes matchup problems.

    Also, the Hawks, since they have no Horford; just lays into Hibbert and tries to frustrate him because they have about 12 fouls to give out there. They bang with him on defense and play off the box on offense- which brings the potential for long rebounds. Oh, and they play fast, too. So the Pacers would have to slow them down.

    2. Jeff Teague. Jeff Teague is actually what makes the Hawks win or lose games. He pushes the pace. He makes plays. He’s aggressive on defense and gets turnovers. He shoots the 3 well. He’s a good free-throw shooter. But Teague can also get into foul trouble. He can get frustrated if he thinks the refs aren’t calling the game fair. He’s volatile. So will the Pacers frustrate him? If not, George Hill and the other PGs on the Pacers can’t matchup with him, period.

    3. David West vs. Paul Millsap. Paul Millsap is a good player- and NBA all-star. But David West is a better scorer. This matchup should go David’s way. Therefore, the Pacers need to feed West and let him do work, because he’s a matchup problem for the Hawks.

    4. Paul George vs. DeMarre Carroll. And this is how the Pacers lose. Paul George is a superstar in this league and he’s better than DeMarre. But here’s the issue: DeMarre is probably the most underrated basketball player in the NBA. This guy is a rebounding machine. He shoots the 3 well. He’s a defensive force. He has a high motor. Therefore, Paul George is going to work really hard on both sides of the ball and that may become an issue as the game goes along.

    5. Bench. Outside of the Center position, the Hawks bench has more depth. You can look at the matchups and see that the Hawks bench is more productive. However, the Pacers is front court is stronger than the Hawks.

    Personally, I believe that this series will go 6 or 7 games. If I had to bet my house, I would pick the Pacers, though. The reason why is because I think that you can win with a superior front court easier than a superior back court. But it’s going to be close.

    • adamsjohn714 - Apr 19, 2014 at 7:07 PM

      Holy cow. I just looked at Carroll’s numbers. You might be right. He’s awesome, and was pretty good last year too.

  6. Jeff - Apr 19, 2014 at 9:15 AM

    Anybody see the April 6 game between these two teams? Hawks can win. They can win big, and they can take the Pacers who have had little interest in winning this past month and half.

  7. nyctraffic - Apr 19, 2014 at 6:24 PM

    The Hawks will surprise some folks in this closely contested series. If they had Horford, they’d win. But without him, I see the Pacers winning 4-2.

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