Previewing Game 2 of the Pacers-Hawks first-round series.
1. Where We Are: The Atlanta Hawks blew the doors off the hinges in the third quarter of Game 1 in Indianapolis and took control of a game they ended up winning quite handily. This wouldn't be so troubling if the Indiana Pacers weren't a full healthy top seed in the East and the Hawks weren't missing their best player, Al Horford. The Hawks spread the floor with five guys on the perimeter and feasted on a weak defensive backcourt and a lot of space to operate. The result was the Pacers once again hanging their heads and showing terrible body language after a 101-93 loss.
Jeff Teague dominated with 28 points and five assists while Paul Millsap chipped in 25 points of his own. The Hawks kept their turnovers low with 12, shot the 3-ball well enough at 36.6 percent, and allowed just 38 points in the paint despite having a huge size disadvantage. The Hawks also kept the rebounding battle relatively close by losing by just four rebounds.
For the Pacers, Paul George struggled to make shots (6-of-18) but managed to grind out 24 points. The next best scorer was Lance Stephenson who needed 18 shots to get his 19 points. Roy Hibbert provided a late surge with scoring to get his total to eight points, but it was mostly just the Pacers trying to save face on the scoreboard.
2. The Big Number: 38. The points in the paint stat I mentioned above is the key to why the Pacers just couldn't get anything going. The Pacers' power forward is bigger than the Hawks' center. Their center is certainly bigger, and yet they still don't pound the ball inside enough. They have match-up physicality advantages all over the floor but don't try to utilize it enough. They need to slow the tempo, pound the ball inside, and try to play inside-out, instead of trying to keep up with this Hawks' team on the perimeter.
3. Key Adjustment: You have to find a way to keep Hibbert protecting the basket. Whenever Teague went into a pick-and-roll, he'd reject the screen and just go the other way. It confused the Pacers and left them out of position to stop dribble penetration. The Pacers can't exactly play zone because the Hawks are a 3-point shooting team. But perhaps you can always have Hibbert dropped back in the PnR coverage and just hope your outside rotations are on point. Regardless, they need to get Hibbert back to challenging shots and regaining his confidence.
4. The Big Story: The Pacers were the team that was supposed to upset the Miami Heat in the East and their number one seed was going to be the magic potion for doing that. But they looked so bad the last 2.5 months and Saturday against the Hawks that getting out of this match-up hell of a series for them may be their biggest challenge. The Pacers seem fragile and imploding, which is something easily reversed with a blowout victory. Where is their blowout victory and where are the Pacers we knew from three months ago?
5. The Facts: 7:00 p.m. ET. Andrew Bynum is out for the Pacers in the first round with knee issues. Al Horford (torn pectoral muscle), Gustavo Ayon (shoulder injury), and John Jenkins (back and leg) are all out for Atlanta.