If the Atlanta Hawks are going to carve out a win in game two, it’s going to require them mixing it up a bit after a discouraging 109-90 loss in game one. A game two win, however, would completely open up the series and give the Hawks an edge moving forward, especially since the Pacers have lost 11 in a row at Philips Arena. Here I look to break down the keys for success in game two, in what I believe will be a much closer game.
Atlanta Hawks Keys to Victory
1. Get out in the open court
The Hawks need to keep running and running and running. Fast breaks have long been the Hawks best friend, and their other love, three-pointers, must take a back seat since the Pacers stifle three point shooters as a point of pride. Atlanta’s ability to develop their transition offense depends in large part on improved rebounding efforts in game two and the ability to get big men to utilize outlet passes a bit more.
2. Get Al Horford more involved in the offense
It’s almost incomprehensible why the Hawks have yet to solidify Horford as more of a dominant figure in half-court sets. As per usual, Horford shot a very nice in 58% from the field in game one, but it was only on 12 shots and yielded only 14 points. No free throws whatsoever. That is clearly not favorable for the Hawks, who have a franchise center they seem content not fully utilizing.
3. Match the Pacers physicality
The Pacers were forced into committing only 14 turnovers in game one, a number that will simply not suffice if the Hawks hope to contend this series. Coach Drew unabashedly stated that his team was “manhandled” in game one, referring to their inability to match and overcome the constant pressure the Pacers employed. The Pacers use suffocating defense to stifle competitors on a nightly basis, and only the teams with enough force to bite back have proven to overcome this.
Indiana Pacers Keys to Victory
1. Keep up the intensity
If there is one thing the Hawks have proven to not respond well to, it is relentless, in-your-face pressure that forces them out of their element. The Hawks are used to using their toughness as an advantage, and not being able to against Indiana very clearly thwarted their game plan. “We want to be the more physical team,” said Frank Vogel, smiling after just being complimented for his team’s destruction of the Hawks defense in game one.
2. Put the ball in Paul George’s hands
Paul George shot a paltry 3-13 from the field in game one, yet ended up with a miraculous 23-11-12 triple double. His high scoring despite such poor shooting night was by in large the product of him getting to the free throw line time and time again, ending the night 17-18 from the stripe. He looks like an absolute stud right now, and if the Pacers are smart they will throw him again and again at Atlanta’s defense and let him work his magic.
3. Keep the rebounding magic going
Before game one, I stated that rebounds would be a huge factor in determining the outcome of this game. This proved to be true and then some, as the Pacers capitalized on a 48-32 rebounding advantage that stymied any semblance of momentum Atlanta had in game one. Rebounding like this gives the Pacers a head of steam coming down the court, where they picked up easy transition fouls early and often.