NBA Playoffs Preview: Pacers vs. Hawks

The Indiana Pacers have had a fulfilling season.  They have excelled because of their vigorous defense.  The Pacers were the number two seed for a period of time, but the Knicks’ late winning streak pushed them down to the third seed.  The Hawks’ season has gone as expected.  They have had their moments but they can really struggle at times.  Let’s take a look at this 3 vs. 6 matchup.

What Indiana needs to do to win: It all starts with their defense.  Defense is how the Pacers control games.  Indiana limited their opponents to 46.7 percent shooting in the regular season.  They are also the best in the league at transition defense.  Coach Frank Vogel prefers for the team to play a half court style.  Al Horford is the Hawks’ most talented offensive player.  If they slow him down, they should have a much easier time against the Hawks.  Indiana’s tenacious defense should create their offense.

What Atlanta needs to do to win: The Hawks are actually the second best in the league at transition defense.  These games are likely going to be slow-paced.  They are also second in the category of assist-to-turnover ratio which means they are cautious with the ball.  Coach Larry Drew runs an extremely organized offense that emphasizes getting the easiest looks possible.  The Hawks absolutely must stay away from the one-on-one situations.  Great ball movement and going through their sets will give them a chance to make this series competitive.

Key Matchupsdwest

Roy Hibbert vs. Al Horford: Hibbert and Horford are completely different players.  Although Hibbert’s offense has steadily improved, he has raw offensive talent.  Al Horford is great at getting good looks.  Hibbert is an excellent post defender but Horford loves to stretch the floor and hit the mid-range jumper.  Therefore, Hibbert won’t be utilized as much for post defense IF he is assigned to guard Horford.

David West vs. Josh Smith: West and Smith are both all-star caliber players.  Like Hibbert and Horford, they also succeed in different ways.  David West is a veteran power forward with a very good IQ.  Josh Smith is the definition of an all-around player.  He is a tremendous athlete that has developed a solid offensive game.  He also can be a big distraction to his opponent on defense.  The major difference between West and Smith is that West always plays his role.  Smith is sometimes caught sleeping and trying to do too much on offense.

Problem for Atlanta: Keep in mind, the Hawks also have Paul George to worry about.  Kyle Korver cannot stick with Paul George.  The Hawks may need to look to their bench for defensive help.  Perhaps, it will be DeShawn Stevenson.

Prediction: Pacers in Six Games

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