The Atlanta Hawks first round series against the Indiana Pacers starts today, and like many other sites have already said, the Hawks have a legit chance at upsetting Indy in the playoffs. While the odds are still heavily against Atlanta, the possibility of the situation means this series is going to be all the more exciting.
During the regular season, the Hawks and Pacers split their series two games apiece. The game that Hawks fans will point to however, is the last matchup of the season where the Hawks demolished the Pacers on the road, 107-88. Matching up with a stumbling Pacers team is certainly a best case scenario for the Hawks, but they are still the less-talented team in this seven-game series.
The real key, at least in my mind, is the defense. Throughout the year, the Hawks won games by outscoring their opponents–not by slowing them down. The Pacers take the exact opposite approach.
They are one of the better defensive teams in the league and finished the regular season allowing the second-fewest points per game (92.3). However, the Pacers have never been a great offensive team, and down the stretch their offense was worse than normal. They finished 24th in the league in scoring, dropping just 96.7 points per game.
The Pacers are also a good rebounding team, an area where the Hawks pretty much stink. Indiana hauls in 44.7 rebounds per game (8th in the NBA) and the Hawks grab just 40 per game (28th in the NBA). These two categories are extremely important and are the main reasons why the Pacers are going into this one as the clear favorites.
If the Atlanta Hawks want to advance into the second round, they are going to have to really step up defensively, and really improve their rebounding game. The problem is, they can only do so much while being so outsized. So, in addition to playing better defensively and around the glass, the Hawks are going to have to be extremely efficient while handling the ball and while scoring.
Basically, they are going to have to step up their game in every way to come through this series. That’s why this is such a tall order–but there is still a chance. The key in this series is going to be Pero Antic in my opinion. As the guys over at Sports Illustrated note the Hawks won both games against Indiana when Antic was playing, and because he can shoot, he pulls Roy Hibbert away from the basket.
Likewise, for Indiana Hibbert is the key. If he can step up his offensive game and still remain a factor defensively and on the boards, the Pacers should have no trouble taking the Hawks down.
Vegas has Hawks as 7.5-point road underdogs in this one. Be sure to follow us on Twitter (@ATLBeatBlog) as we get closer to the game for updates and information, and also be sure to check back here after the game for a full recap.
Date: April 19, 2014
Tip-Off Time: 7:00 p.m.
TV Channel: SportSouth (Local in Atlanta), ESPN
Radio: 92.9 FM (Atlanta Flagship), Atlanta Hawks Radio Network Affiliates
Live Stream: League Pass Broadband
Tags: Atlanta Hawks