After a long, hard-fought 82-game schedule, it all comes down to this.
The Atlanta Hawks and Indiana Pacers will square off in a best-of-seven series starting tonight at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in what is sure to be an entertaining series.
The big storyline this year for the Hawks was the season-ending injury suffered by team centerpiece Al Horford in late December. The Hawks went into a tailspin in the months following Horford’s injury, dropping from 3rd place in the Eastern Conference to on the brink of missing the playoffs altogether before rebounding and ultimately securing the No. 8 seed. The Hawks ended the season with a -0.5 scoring differential despite outscoring opponents by 3.7 points per 48 minutes with Horford on the floor.
Its noteworthy that Atlanta initially weathered the post-Horford storm well, mainly due to inspired play from All-Star forward Paul Millsap. However, the team could not sustain efforts, and ended up going on an eight-game losing streak in February and another six-game losing streak spanning February and March that dropped them into a very compromising situation.
Atlanta, facing missing out on the playoffs for the first time in seven seasons, went 7-3 over its last 10 games to eek out the final playoff spot in the East.
The Pacers, meanwhile, have faced recent struggles of their own. After going 33-7 over the first half of the season, Indiana was a pedestrian 23-19 over their last 42 games. A major reason for this has been the disappearance of All-Star center Roy Hibbert, who is shooting just 23.5 percent in the month of April and has averaged just 3.2 rebounds over his last 13 games, both abysmal statistics for a center. Pacers coach Frank Vogel isn’t too concerned with his team’s recent play, however.
Click here for the full game preview from William Perry.
Who?: Atlanta Hawks vs Indiana Pacers
What?: Game 1 of First-Round Playoff Series
Where?: Bankers Life Fieldhouse (Indianapolis, IN)
When?: Saturday, April 19, 2014 – 7:00 PM (ET)
PG: Teague | SG: Korver | SF: Carroll | PF: Millsap | C: Antic
PG: Hill | SG: Stephenson | SF: George | PF: West | C: Hibbert
Atlanta Hawks: Gustavo Ayon (right shoulder surgery), Al Horford (right pectoral muscle surgery) and John Jenkins (lower back surgery) are out.
Indiana Pacers: Andrew Bynum (sore right knee) is out.
Current Records, Streaks & Hot, Lukewarm, or Cold
Regular-Season Records: Atlanta Hawks (38-44) / Indiana Pacers (56-26)
Streaks: Atlanta Hawks –> OVERALL: Won 1 | HOME: Lost 1 | ROAD: Won 3 Indiana Pacers –> OVERALL: Won 2 | HOME: Won 1 | ROAD: Won 1
Home/Away Records: Pacers were (35-6) at home / Hawks were (14-27) away.
Atlanta Hawks: Lukewarm. The Hawks enter Game 1 of the first-round playoffs series having won three straight road games to close out the regular-season, including a 19-point thrashing over the Pacers at Indiana on April 6.
Indiana Pacers: Lukewarm. The Pacers finished the regular-season with two straight wins and three in their last four overall.
Series Notes/Past Series Notes
The Hawks and Pacers split the regular season series at two games apiece, with each club winning once at home and once on the road. The Hawks struck first with 97-87 home win on 1/8 before Indiana took the next two – 89-85 at Philips Arena (2/4) and 108-98 at home (2/18). Atlanta took the final meeting 107-88 at Indiana on 4/6. Jeff Teague averaged 14.3 points against the Pacers this year, including 25 in the last game, while Kyle Korver averaged 14.0 points and Pero Antic 17.0 (in two games). Paul George averaged 22.5 points versus the Hawks and David West put up 15.0.
The 2014 postseason marks the sixth time the Hawks and Pacers have met in the NBA Playoffs and fifth time in the opening round. Indiana leads the overall series 14-10 and has taken three of the five previous series, including last season’s first round series, 4-2.
Hawks Assistant Coach Jim Thomas played two seasons for Indiana (1983-85) after being selected by the Pacers in second round of the 1983 NBA Draft, following a standout career at Indiana University. Hawks Assistant Coach Darvin Ham played one game for the Pacers in 1996-97. Jeff Teague is a native of Indianapolis (Pike High School). Shelvin Mack attended Butler University in Indianapolis. Donald Sloan played five games for Atlanta in 2011-12. Kyle Korver and C.J. Watson teamed-up with Chicago from 2010-12. Korver (Chicago 2010-11) has also been teammates with Rasual Butler. George Hill (2008-11) and Ian Mahinmi (2007-10) played for San Antonio while Hawks Head Coach Mike Budenholzer was an Assistant on the Spurs bench. Luis Scola teamed with DeMarre Carroll in Houston for part of 2010-11.