On a day where the road playoff team won three of the four games, one would probably assume that the eighth seeded Atlanta Hawks would be the ones to drop their matchup. Despite the poor play of the Pacers over the past two months of the season, they still remained one of the best home teams in the league and perhaps with the playoffs finally here and a raucous crowd, they would put their horrors behind them and take care of business.
Instead, they continued to look disheveled and not only did the Hawks steal this one, they won handedly. The matchup problems that the Hawks present with the floor spacing ability of having an entire team on the court that can spread the floor proved to not just be a threat, but an actual problem. The Hawks had six players hit from deep and were 11-30 on the night.
The 3 point threat shouldn’t be too surprising though and at this point might be a little underrated. No team averaged more 3 point attempts against the Pacers this season as the Hawks attempted 25.3. Not only were the Hawks jacking up so many, they were also hitting them at a 40.6% clip. Don’t be surprised if the Hawks blow another game out in this series hitting something crazy like 15-32. Coach Budenholzer obviously recognizes the difficulties that the Pacers have in covering the Hawks stretching ability and the playoffs is all about exploiting those weaknesses.
#PlayoffTeague is also a force to be reckoned with. He’s had plenty of stretches this season to indicate that he has top point guard capability so this shouldn’t be too much of a surprise. What will be interesting in the coming games is if he can replicate this performance. Every postseason there are a couple of players that raise their play to the next level: Steph Curry and Kawhi Leonard are two examples of players whose stock rose considerably after incredible performances.
Could Jeff Teague be one of the surprises after this series? George Hill had great difficulty trying to keep in front of him as he snaked to the rim again and again last night. The Pacers effort was also hampered by a noted lackluster performance by Roy Hibbert who failed to register a single block or really impose his verticality. Granted, when the Hawks are jacking up 3s like they’re trying to earn an Xbox achievement in 2k14, rim protection isn’t going to be helpful.
For a good portion of the season the Pacers were widely seen as legitimate championship contenders. The pieces they have and the style they play, though rough at times, should get the job done. The prevalent opinion is that Pacers are going to have to right the ship at some point. But at what point do we see them as the .500 team that has serious flaws they’ve been for the past two months versus the team that started out 18-1? After the game one loss and their recent play, I think it’s fair to say that they are who they are at this point. Would you be more surprised to see them with another miserable game or to completely smother the Hawks?
At this point, the mediocre sideshow they’ve been putting on the floor seems in many ways to be the norm rather than the norm. In which case, if the Hawks continue to play the way they’re playing, why shouldn’t they pull off the historic upset? If the Hawks can continue to spread the floor like they did last night, they have more than a punchers chance to go up 2-0 as they head home–and at that point, a likely series win.