Hawks at Pacers – Game 1 Preview
The Hawks are preparing for game one against the Indiana Pacers on Sunday afternoon in Indianapolis.
Atlanta didn’t win at Banker’s Life Fieldhouse in the regular season and will be looking to steal game one in a building where the Pacers won 30 games. The Pacers will go with George Hill, Lance Stephenson, Paul George, David West and Roy Hibbert. Knowing that, I suspect Larry Drew will counter with Jeff Teague, Devin Harris, DeShawn Stevenson, Josh Smith and Al Horford. Kyle Korver could be substituted for Stevenson, but I think Drew will sacrifice a little bit of offense in order to put a slightly better defender on George. If game one is lopsided on the glass or in the paint, Drew may move Smith to small forward and start Ivan Johnson or Johan Petro in game two.
Beating Indiana won’t be easy, but it is possible. Here are the game one keys:
The Hawks must keep Indiana out of the lane. The Pacers will have size at just about every position on the floor. Atlanta can’t let Hibbert and West catch the ball deep, and they can’t get Hill and George penetrate off the dribble. The pacers are a physical team and are best when they play big. If they get inside positioning, it’s game over because of their size. No one on their team shoots 50 percent, and no one shoots better than 36 percent from deep. Making Indiana a jump-shooting team is the way to beat them. If they hit their jump shots, you tip your hat.
The Hawks like to play last. The Pacers don’t. A half-court game, which is what most playoff games become, favors Indiana. The Hawks have to be careful not to fall into the trap of playing tight just because the game means more. Instead they have to run at every opportunity. It’s much easier to score on Indiana’s transition defense than it is to score on their half-court defense.
The Hawks are going to have to win the bench battle. The Pacers get a lot smaller when Hibbert, West and George leave the floor, so the Hawks should have matchup opportunities off the bench. This is an area where I think the Hawks can really excel. After all, the bench erased a 20-point fourth quarter lead in Indiana the last time these teams played and nearly won the game. If Atlanta wins game one, the bench will likely be a reason why.
To stay up-to-date with the Hawks throughout the playoffs, visit Hawks Playoff Central.
Photo by Ron Hoskins/NBAE/Getty Images