Postgame Thoughts: Hawks Step Up D In Must-Win Game 3
A few thoughts after tonight’s 90-69 win over the Pacers:
– The story of this series has been Atlanta’s inability to stop Indiana. What a difference home-court advantage makes in changing that. The Hawks held the Pacers to 27 percent shooting, thanks in large part to finally keeping the Pacers out of the lane. As I’ve said for the past nine days, forcing Indiana into perimeter jump shots is the key to beating the Pacers, and the Hawks did it tonight, holding them to 30 points in the paint and 69 overall.
– The free-throw disparity has been talked about, with Indiana having shot 30+ more free throws in games 1 and 2 than Atlanta. Tonight it was even, with both teams shooting 28. I still think that’s too many to allow the Pacers to shoot, but the calls were going both ways (despite too many foul calls, 54, in my opinion). The free throw disparity needs to remain even for the Hawks to have a chance.
– Indiana’s 21 made free throws and 30 points in the paint left only 18 points outside the paint. Again, Indiana struggles to score when you push them away from the lane.
– Al Horford had that possessed look in his eye tonight. Shifting to power forward to make room for Johan Petro in Larry Drew’s revamped starting lineup, Al had 26 points and 16 rebounds. Yes, he made some signature 18-footers, but a lot of those points came in the paint. We need Horford to play like that again in a must-win Game 4.
– The Hawks got a huge boost from the bench tonight, particularly Ivan Johnson. At one point during Atlanta’s 22-2 first half run, Johnson drew three straight offensive fouls. He brought a lot of energy and frustrated several Pacers’ bigs. We’ll need that again on Monday.
It’s only one game, but it was obviously a must-win, and the Hawks came to play. The crowd was fantastic, and the Hawks responded on the defensive end. Atlanta can’t afford to go back to Indiana down 3-1, so they’ll need the same type of defensive intensity they brought tonight. Expect Indiana to come back strong. I think we’ll get a very entertaining game 4.
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