The Atlanta Hawks kept their impressive 12-game home winning streak against the Pacers alive by easily defeating Indiana in game 3 after falling behind 0-2 in the series. The Hawks look to even the series at 2 games apiece tonight at Philips Arena, where they will face the disgruntled Pacers looking to avenge their loss. Here I will break down the keys for success for both teams in tonight’s match-up:
Atlanta Hawks Keys to Victory
1. Keep the pressure high on Paul George
Atlanta absolutely harassed George last game, throwing a multitude of defensive looks his way to effectively keep him from getting comfortable. Instead of responding calmly and looking to help his team in ways other than scoring, the young George often forced the issue, which resulted in an uncharacteristic 5 turnovers (more than the prior two games combined). He saw a lot of Josh Smith in game three, something that clearly frustrated him and helped the Hawks take control.
2. Maintain focus on forcing turnovers
Atlanta forced a series-high 22 turnovers in game 3, a number due in large part to the 9 steals recorded by the starting lineup alone. This improved defense and tenacity was mainly due to the Hawks bigger lineups, specifically ones featuring the bruising Ivan Johnson.
3. Run the offense through Horford
The Hawks finally woke up and pounded the ball into Horford en route to their game 3 drubbing of the Pacers. After two games of under-utilizing the extremely talented big man, Atlanta responded by playing Horford for 40 minutes and having him touch the ball on nearly every offensive possession. The result? 26 points on 12-20 shooting to go along with 16 rebounds, 2 steals and 2 blocks. It’s always nice to see how far a little confidence can get you.
Indiana Pacers Keys to Victory
1. Stay out of foul trouble
Hibbert, George and West each recorded 4 fouls in Saturday’s loss, something that forced the trio to sit for longer than desired and played a huge role in the Hawks blistering first half run. The Pacers only reliable big man off the bench is Tyler Hansbrough, so they were forced to go smaller on many occasions with lineups that featured DJ Augustin and Gerald Green. If these three starters, especially Hibbert, can avoid foul trouble, the Pacers will fair much better tonight than they did in game 3.
2. Give Tyler Hansbrough his due
Hansbrough, though not overly skilled, made hustle plays again and again last game in efforts to try and spark a comeback from his team. You absolutely need a guy like that to contend in playoff games, especially against more burly opponents like Atlanta. The Hawks will certainly try and utilize bigger lineups more regularly after their success in game 3, so Hansbrough’s motor becomes all the more vital for the Pacers success.
3. Hit the ground running
After leading 8-1 to start the game, the Pacers unexpectedly lost all semblance of momentum after a Hawks timeout, getting beaten badly to the point of being down 24 at half. The margins of victory in the series thus far have been 17 points in game 1, 15 in game 2 and 21 in game 3, so getting an early lead and being able to kill the spirit of the Hawks early in game 4 is a key ingredient for their success tonight.