Guard play gives Hawks edge against Pacers

Jon Barash

Before Saturday night’s Game 1 playoff game against the Pacers, not many people outside the Hawks’ locker room gave them a chance to beat Indiana. However, just as they did 13 days before, the Hawks went to Bankers Life Fieldhouse and dominated the Indiana Pacers, cruising to a 101-93 victory. At one point on Saturday the Hawks were the largest trending topic on Twitter, and rightfully so. The world took notice and the Hawks’ bandwagon has gotten a bit larger.

The Hawks were the aggressor on both offense and defense. They got up into the bodies of the young Pacers and made them uncomfortable. The Pacers could not run their offense smoothly and ended up taking contested jumpers, which fed right in to the Hawks style.

With the score tied at halftime, the Hawks outscored the Pacers by 14 in the third quarter to take command of the game. Throughout the game, Indianapolis native Jeff Teague was able to penetrate into the paint at will. Each time he got into the lane, he made a play for himself or one of his teammates. Teague scored a playoff career-high 28 points and dished out five assists

Teague’s usual running mate, Paul Millsap, had 25 points and eight rebounds for the Hawks. Demarre Carroll played his usual tough defense on Paul George holding George to just six of 18 shooting. Carroll also pulled down a team-high 10 boards to go with 12 points.

 

Game 2 Preview

After Game 1, the talk has been how bad the Pacers have been playing lately and how poorly they performed on Saturday. The Hawks have received almost no love from the media, but frankly that’s just fine with them. The Hawks enter Game 2 with overflowing confidence. Game 1 proved that the Hawks can use their smaller lineup to frustrate the Pacers’ big men, especially 7-foot-2 defensive star Roy Hibbert. Pero Antic spreads the floor and makes it difficult for Hibbert to guard him. With Hibbert looming around the perimeter, it creates more space in the lane for the Hawks to operate. That was clearly evident with Jeff Teague. George Hill is not quick enough to stay with Jeff Teague and Evan Turner is one of the worst defensive players in the NBA. Even when the Pacers are playing well, these are tough matchups for them.

I truly believe even if the Pacers respond like you would think a team would after getting embarrassed at home, the Hawks still have a tremendous chance to win. The Hawks spread the floor with shooters, and have a point guard who nobody in a Pacers uniform can stay in front of, which makes getting stops a nightmare. Another factor is that, right now, the Hawks are better defensively than the Pacers are offensively, so in addition to their offensive gameplan the Hawks need to maintain their tough nosed in your face defense Tuesday night.

As the saying goes “it is easier said than done”; However, the Hawks have made the doing part look easy against the Pacers this year, and I see no reason why the Hawks won’t return home with a 2-0 lead in the series.

 

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