The Hawks somewhat surprisingly went small to start with a lineup of Teague, Harris, Korver, Smith, Horford to counter the Pacer’s Hill, Stephenson, George, West and Hibbert. After the result of the game, we may see a different starting lineup in the future.
Teague hit an early jumper and it seemed to help his confidence going forward. Both teams ran in transition, a trait that was not expected of the Pacers who maintained a very slow pace for the majority of the regular season. The Hawks looked energetic as they should in a playoff game deemed a big underdog by many in the media in the first quarter.
Hibbert had his hook going early, taking advantage of the lack of size from Atlanta. The Pacers got to the rim with ease and the Hawk defensive rotations were much too slow. A lot of Indiana shots very close to the rim, as you can see below. This is just of the 1st quarter, but the trend continued throughout the 48 minutes.
Teague doing a great job of distributing from the pick and roll but Jenkins looked a little uncomfortable handling the ball working alongside Teague.
Al Horford had a chance for a three point play and followed it up with nifty post move for a dunk. He really caught fire in the second quarter. Both teams clearly looked to get the post game going early and often. Josh played within himself, only occasionally setting for jumpers but attacking the rim and distributing when necessary. Ivan Johnson provided much needed effort on the glass and cleaned up a few possessions on offense.
Despite what looked to be an overwhelming effort in the first half from Indiana, the halftime lead was only 8 and the Hawks held near even in almost all box score categories. Kyle Korver knocked down a three at the beginning of the third quarter to shake the rust off. He was 1-5 in first half including 0-2 from beyond the arc.
From that point on, the Pacers forced the Hawks to defend the span of their baseline by swinging the ball well. Due to multiple Pacer cuts, there was a collective assault on the rim in a dazzling display of ball movement and awareness. It was essentially over by midway in the fourth quarter. The Pacers continued to slice through the Hawks defense like a soft stick of butter.
Put plainly, Indiana is a really good team. They have kept their central core of Hill-George-West-Hibbert healthy and together for 2 years and developed a clear chemisty and cohesion with one another. It’s always a tall task for lower seeded team to win on the road in the playoffs and tonight was no exception. As is the protocol during series, the losing team has a great opportunity to make adjustments and come back stronger than before. One game does not make or break a series. On to game 2.
Game Grades: Each player is given a grade on an A+ through F scale based upon their performance.
Jeff Teague: B-
Jeff got off to a hot start and showed his range shooting the ball all over the court. However, as was the case team wide, he allowed George Hill and others to enter the paint at will and break down the Atlanta defense.
Devin Harris: C-
Harris played a team high 40 minutes but hardly left and impact on the game. His burst to the rim was barely found and much needed. 8 points and 2 assists in 40 minutes of play sounds like a line from the first half of DeShawn Stevenson’s season with the Hawks.
Kyle Korver: C-
Korver just couldn’t find his stroke. The three point ball may be the Hawks’ only shots at pulling off the upset in this series so it will take some huge games from Korver to lead the way in the days ahead. 5 points on 7 shots isn’t going to cut it.
Josh Smith: C+
Take some good cuts, mix in some questionable shot selection, add some pinpoint passes and a dash of wayward passes and you have Smoove’s afternoon in Banker’s Life Fieldhouse. In total, he finished with 15 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists and 4 costly turnovers.
Al Horford: B+
On a per minute basis, Horford certainly produced. He was the go-to option in the second quarter that was desperately needed. However, it’s hard to lead the team from the bench. He had 14 points, 6 rebounds, and 3 assists in 28 minutes.
John Jenkins: F
Jenkins looked generally lost and had trouble even handling the ball. It was his first taste of postseason basketball and it could not have gone worse.
DeShawn Stevenson: C
Stevenson was largely unnoticed other than hitting both of his 3 point attempts.
Ivan Johnson: B+
Though Ivan had trouble pushing the strong Pacers bigs out of the restricted area, he was able to clean up the glass for the Hawks better than most in an Atlanta jersey Sunday. He finished with 10 points and 5 rebounds at numerous hustle plays.
Johan Petro: C
Petro did not appear until 1 minute left in the first half but managed to make Roy Hibbert look spry in comparison. He did have a perfect shooting night, however.
Larry Drew: C-
It’s very hard to explain why Al Horford only played 28 minutes in the most important game of the season, especially after putting together a solid first half. Drew was put in a bind between choosing size or agility when it came to his post rotations and he tried to work in Ivan Johnson and Johan Petro but neither could stop the bleeding in the Hawks paint. These next couple of days will test Drew’s ability to adjust in terms of rotations and offensive sets for the Hawks certainly looked a notch below a very good Pacers team.
Indiana Pacers: A
A lot is made of the Pacer’s tough defense but despite being limited, they have formed a solid offensive attack as well. It’s easy to see this is a cohesive unit on offense. All members pass extremely well. The Pacers were automatic from the free throw in the first half, going 15-15. They finished with a gaudy 34-14 margin in the free throw battle. The Pacers were on the better side of a 12-2 gap in offensive rebounding in the second half. This is a scrappy team that fed off of the crowd’s energy. Despite having possibly their best player not play a single minute for them this season, they have overcome large adversity to become a top 3 team in the East. Frank Vogel deserves much credit for their accomplishments this season.