The No. 6 Atlanta Hawks head to Indianapolis to play Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the No. 3 Indiana Pacers Sunday at 1:00 PM (ET) on TNT.
These teams met four times during the regular-season and split the series 2-2 with the home team winning each game. The Hawks were in Atlanta for the first two matchups and won 89-86 on Nov. 7 and 109-100 on Dec. 29, while the Pacers won 114-103 on Feb.5 and evened things up with a 100-94 decision on March 25 in Indiana.
The Pacers have a considerable size advantage over the Hawks with Paul George, David West and 7’2 Roy Hibbert anchoring the front court, so ATL coach Larry Drew will counter with a small, quick, lineup of Jeff Teague, Devin Harris, Kyle Korver, Josh Smith and Al Horford.
Contributing writer William Perry breaks down the top 3 keys to victory for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals as No. 3 Indiana Pacers host No. 6 Atlanta Hawks.
Atlanta Hawks Keys to Victory
1. Spread the ball around
In the Hawks’ win against the Pacers on Nov. 7, four starters scored in double figures, and on their December 23rd win, all five starters scored 15+ points. The Pacers are an incredibly tough defensive matchup so utilizing an assortment of players to frustrate their efforts becomes key.
2. Run the offense through Al Horford
Indiana limited opponents to 32.7% on three-pointers this season, good for best in the league. The Hawks need to use Korver as a decoy to draw focus to the perimeter and attack with Al Horford operating from the post. Keeping the defense honest is important, but three-point shots should not be significant in the Hawks’ game plan.
3. Lock down the perimeter
The Pacers were a combined 13-of-41 (31%) from deep in the Hawks’ two wins this season, and 19-of-48 (40%) in their two losses. That leaves little room for error, so defenders will need to be on their toes and close out on shooters. Paul George in particular has the length to shoot over people, so sticking close to him is key.
Indiana Pacers Keys to Victory
1. Plan ahead for defensive switches
In the first matchup between the two teams, the Hawks switched to a zone defense in the last quarter of the game, leaving the Pacers helpless to the 18-0 onslaught that followed. Being well practiced at handling multiple defensive looks will be a key factor if the Pacers are to have success in Game 1.
2. Rebound effectively
The Pacers hold a +5.0 rebound differential against the NBA this season, good for best in the league, whereas the Hawks are -3.0. If they can control the glass, they can limit fast breaks, second chance opportunities and momentum. It will require some help from Paul George and Lance Stephenson, both of whom are very capable rebounders.
3. A fully healthy George Hill
Guarding Jeff Teague is no easy task, and the defensively adept George Hill will need to be fully healthy in order to effectively do this. He suffered a left groin strain that kept him out of the season finale, but has since claimed to be back to full strength. Pacers fans better hope so, because D.J. Augustin playing heavy playoff minutes will not likely bring much success.