Down 2-0, the Atlanta Hawks are nearing must-win territory to avoid yet another disappointing early-round exit. So far the Pacers have manhandled the Hawks with relative ease, exerting their will and unveiling Paul George’s newfound superstardom. Though it will be an uphill battle, the series is far from over, and I break down my game 3 keys to victory here:
Atlanta Hawks Keys to Victory
1. Get more aggressive on offense
Atlanta is shooting a scorching 49.7% from the field, yet have lost the first two games of the series by a combined 32 points. This simply should not be the case, and one way this could be corrected is a more run-and-gun style of play, which should at the very least get the team to the charity stripe more often.
2. Go big or go home
We’ve seen how badly Paul George can destroy Kyle Korver and Devin Harris (games 1 and 2, respectively), so why not give Smith the opportunity to shadow George and go with an ultra-big lineup? Atlanta could slide Horford into the PF spot and Johan Petro/Ivan Johnson in at the C, in a lineup that at the very least would give them the ability to bang bodies with the Pacers down low. This would help greatly with the rebounding disparity, give Atlanta a bit of mental toughness and put the Hawks best defender on the Pacers best player.
3. Get the crowd going
By now it’s no secret that the Pacers have not won in Philips Arena over the past 11 games there- something certainly of note since a lot of the Pacers current players have been a part of those games. Pump the crowd up Hawks! It’s a loud, passionate fan base in Atlanta that can rattle the young Pacers enough to let you swoop in and steal game 3.
Indiana Pacers Keys to Victory
1. Continue to make a living at the free throw line
The Pacers are now a ridiculous 51-63 from the free throw line over the last two games, whereas the Hawks are 18-34. Paul George in particular is making a big difference, as he is now a combined 21-25 from the free throw line over this stretch.
2. Rebound, rebound, rebound
It seems simple, but the Pacers relentless crashing of the boards is a large part of what has put these last two games so out of reach for Atlanta. The Pacers rebound a scary 35% of their own misses, a number that leads all playoff teams by a wide margin. Horford and Smith are being wiped out on the boards and it’s really showing.
3. Keep bruising
“Physicality is our style of play,” said an excited Paul George after game 2, adding, “We’ll step up to the occasion.” One thing that will keep the Hawks fans out of the game is the Pacers willingness to make the hustle plays and do the little things that mean so much down the stretch in tight games. The Hawks clearly seem inferior in the post, so that is where Indiana should focus on doing most of their damage.