In an exciting turn of events, the Atlanta Hawks have won two straight against the Indiana Pacers to even the best-of-seven series at two games apiece. The series returns to Indiana tonight for game five, with the main question being whether Atlanta can carry their recent momentum into Bankers Life Fieldhouse, or if Indiana can continue their dominance at home. Here is our breakdown for the game 5 keys to victory for both teams:
Atlanta Hawks Keys to Victory
1) Stick with the big lineups
By having Johan Petro play center, the Hawks are able to move Al Horford to the PF position, where he is much more comfortable and able to match up against David West, and Josh Smith to SF, where he can lock down Paul George. Ivan Johnson adds a nice boost of toughness off the bench as well, consistently harassing Indiana big men into making mistakes. Provided Smith and Horford can avoid early foul trouble, it looks as if the Hawks may have found their recipe for success.
2) Attack the rim
A large part of how Atlanta was able to maintain their lead in game 4 was by continuously driving to the hoop and picking up easy fouls. Smith, Horford and Teague drew a combined 32 free-throw attempts, more than the entire Indiana Pacers team. If they can continue to pick up fouls near the rim, their chances of sneaking out of Indianapolis with a victory tonight become far more likely.
3) Don’t let Indiana’s defense get comfortable
Atlanta did an awesome job last game of utilizing Kyle Korver and Anthony Tolliver to space the floor when the Pacers defense started to pack the paint to stop Horford. The two combined to go 8-11 from behind the 3-point arc, as kick outs from the post often resulted in open shots. If Atlanta is able to space the floor and keep Indiana’s defense second-guessing, they are paving their own road to the next round.
Indiana Pacers Keys to Victory
1) Close out driving lanes quickly
When Josh Smith, who shot 16 free-throws last game alone, gets a head of steam heading towards the basket he is going to end up scoring or at the free-throw line. If help defenders can effectively cut off the lane without leaving their men open, the Hawks will not be able to pick up easy points. The proof? In the first two games of the series (both Pacers blowouts) the Hawks averaged 17 free throw attempts per game, and in the second two games (both Hawks blowouts) Atlanta averaged 33 free throw attempts per game.
2) Keep a slow pace in the first half
These past two games have shown the Pacers inability to climb back from large deficits, as the Hawks have accrued halftime leads of 17 and 24 points in the last two contests. By playing half court ball, working the ball down low and cherishing possessions, the Pacers will stymie any potential Hawks momentum and assure themselves a game in the second half.
3) Get Josh Smith in foul trouble early
Attack him at the rim; he will always meet you there, and when he does the result will usually be a foul or blocked shot. The Hawks are now fully aware that a major key to their success is draping Josh Smith on Paul George, as he is the only player with the body and skill set to thwart his game. As well, Smith has been on fire offensively in the past two games, adding to the importance of forcing him to sit out for an extended period. Without Smith the Hawks would likely regress back to having Devin Harris and Kyle Korver guard George- two options that have been tried and do not turn out pretty.