The Indiana Pacers frustrated the Atlanta Hawks in Games 1 and 2. In Game 3, the roles flipped, thanks to supreme efforts in the hustle department by all members of Atlanta.
After no one could contain Paul George in the first two games, Larry Drew decided to go big and assign Josh Smith to matchup with the Pacers’ rising star. He did more than just matchup, folks. He thoroughly dominated Paul George on both ends of the floor. Sure, George scored 16 points, but held to 4-11 shooting and only 1 assist. PG was the aggressor for Indy early in the series and his ball distribution was key to the early leads the Pacers sustained. Take away the seven made free throws and George ends up with 9 points. Talk about shutting the star down.
Most of J-Smoove’s dominance came in the post. From the get-go, he made it his mission to put George in positions where he seldom defends. Smith’s overall brute strength and post savvy (or should I say experience) made life easy down low. It didn’t hurt that George was about as sturdy as cheesy grits in the paint. Yes, I just used the words “cheesy” and “grits” in total seriousness and I’m not ashamed in the slightest.
When you look at the tape, simple drop-down moves ended up in some powerful jams and easy buckets.
George isn’t used to battling down low and his inexperience was more than obvious in those clips.
Doris Burke of ESPN made a great comment after Smoove knocked down a jumper. Whenever Josh attacks the rim early, his jumpers seem to fall for the rest of the game (I won’t count three pointers).
But, of course, there’s another half of the game that we’re missing. How did Smoove hold PG to 9 points (not counting free throws)? To be honest, the defense wasn’t why. He missed a few gimme layups, as well as some open (off-balance) jumpers that he calmly drained in Indianapolis for Games 1 and 2. While I’m not saying the Hawks were lucky to win and they did only because George had an off game shooting, a positive performance from PG would’ve kept it (a little) closer.
Overall, the effort displayed by Smoove and the rest of the Hawks was more than solid and I am extremely confident going into Game 4 in the ATL. The crowd left a little to be desired, but I was pleased with it nonetheless. The building exploded after that Harris-Smoove connection (above) and I’m glad there’s energy in the building again.
Oh, and here’s David West of the Pacers chewing gum for your enjoyment. (Courtesy of SBNation)