Posted: 9:10 am Monday, April 7th, 2014

The Hawks need Indiana to be the No. 1 seed 

By Mark Bradley

Pero Antic shreds the frazzled Pacers. (Brent Smith/AP)

Pero Antic shreds the frazzled Pacers. (Brent Smith/AP)

For better or worse, the Atlanta Hawks are playoff-bound. They lead the ninth-place Knicks by two games with six to play, and the Hawks have the edge in the pertinent tiebreaker (conference record) and the easier schedule.

The bad part of this is that the Hawks, by qualifying for postseason, won’t participate in the draft lottery and will be matched against the conference’s No. 1 seed. At the moment, Miami holds first place in the East. If the Hawks get outrageously lucky, the Indiana Pacers will reclaim No. 1. Having Indiana as a Round 1 opponent would definitely qualify as better.

The Pacers have fallen apart in a way I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a good team fall apart. They have suffered no major injuries. They have the same starting five as the team that took Miami to a Game 7 in the Eastern Conference finals last spring. They were the NBA’s best for much of this regular season. They’re awful now.

Indiana has lost 12 of its past 19 games and seven of nine. Six of its past seven losses have come by double figures. In the span of seven days, the Pacers were beaten at home 103-77 by San Antonio and 107-88 by the Hawks. The latter loss came Sunday, and the score flattered the loser. The Hawks led by 32 points after 16 1/2 minutes, which is hard to do.

Roy Hibbert, the Pacers’ All-Star center, was benched for the second half by coach Frank Vogel, who said Hibbert looked “worn down.” This did not, however, prevent Vogel from using his other starters in the fourth quarter of a game long since lost.

For weeks, the Indianapolis Star has focused on two local issues: The strange arrest of Colts owner Jim Irsay and the bizarre collapse of the Pacers. Every time the Pacers appear to have hit bottom, they manage to reach a new new low. Hibbert has suggested that the Pacers have some “selfish dudes.” (The consensus is that Lance Stephenson is the dude in question.) The All-Star forward Paul George looks nothing like an All-Star, and it’s suggested that various off-the-court issues have been the reason.

The Hawks, who’ve won three of four since losing six in a row, have steadied with the return of Kyle Korver. They’re not a great team by any measure, but they’d be a difficult matchup for Indiana. (Lest we forget, the Hawks took the Pacers to six games in Round 1 last season.) Without Al Horford, there’s no post presence, but against Indiana that’s not necessarily a bad thing. With the 3-point-shooting Pero Antic the nominal center, the Hawks can spread the floor and make Hibbert chase somebody, and he’s too slow — and apparently too tired — to do that.

The Hawks aren’t very good defensively, but the Pacers’ offense has turned rancid. They’ve broken 100 points only once in the past 12 games, and the once — a 101-point windfall — was against Detroit, which quit trying before New Year’s. On Sunday they managed 23 points, a franchise low, in the first half. (Had the Hawks not scored a point in the second quarter, they’d still have led by 10 at halftime.)

Are the Pacers capable of passing Miami for the No. 1 seed? On paper, yes. Two of their four remaining games are against Milwaukee and Orlando, the league’s worst and third-worst teams. Of the Heat’s six games, five will be against playoff-caliber opposition. And the Pacers will win any tiebreaker, which means they need only gain one game over the final 10 days.

The Pacers and Heat will meet Friday night in Miami. The Heat will play the Hawks at Philips Arena the next night. Those two games could well settle the issue of the Hawks’ Round 1 opponent — and their chances of reaching Round 2. They’d have a real shot against reeling Indiana. They wouldn’t have much of one against LeBron.

21 comments
Glennsanity
Glennsanity

The Hawks need to get ice cold again & the Knicks need to step up . Then the ping pong ball needs to bounce the Hawks way . The worst case scenario is the Hawks making the playoffs .

JerryMcCrary
JerryMcCrary

Didn't we think this last season also? I just don't want to see the heat first round because phillips arena will be filled with bandwagon fans

devounknown1000
devounknown1000

Larry Bird traded Granger for some scrubb in Philly, LOL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Worst trade ever that made the Pacers look like 2014 Sixers since the trade happen.


GO HAWKS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Ted_Striker
Ted_Striker

Playoff scenarios? I'm still not over Macho Grande

DawgnIT
DawgnIT

It seems that the Hawks, like the Falcons, do not want the luxury of a higher draft position despite having no shot at anything rewarding.


Brooklyn got their stuff together and will be in the playoffs so no chance at a lottery pick there.  The Hawks are without Horford so no chance at making noise in the playoffs.  


We're still stuck in the middle!

We_Will_Get_Fooled_Again
We_Will_Get_Fooled_Again

I agree, Mark, but here's the problem that I see: In order for the Pacers to reclaim the top seed, they'll have to right themselves in these final few games, and if that happens, the Hawks can't beat them. The Hawks could possibly upset a dysfunctional Pacers team, but not an Indiana squad playing at a level that's anything close to what we saw from November to February.

It seems like we're destined to play the Heat. It's hard to see the Pacers going into Miami and winning. They look awful.

carlerskine
carlerskine

I love the Atlanta Hawks, but I hope the NY Knicks make the playoff and the Hawks will be in the Lottery and maybe draft a center or a shooting guard.

BravesFan79
BravesFan79

No way the Heat fall back to #2, and for the record im glad.  The Hawks would loose round 1 either way, and im still cheering for a more exciting matchup with the Heat than a run down, boring defensive series against the Pacers.  I think the Pacers get their sh** together come playoff time.

JackClemens
JackClemens

Hope they draw the Pacers, but the Hawks won't get lucky now.

ConfederateFlagBurner
ConfederateFlagBurner

In retrospect I'm glad the Hawks didn't tank. There are no game changers in the lottery, they all are developmental. We just need to keep building. 

ConfederateFlagBurner
ConfederateFlagBurner

The Pacers will have trouble with the Hawks because;

1. Teague would abuse Hill

2. Hibbert is a stiff and wouldn't be able to cover Antic

3. They suck offensively 

4. Carroll gives George fits

5. They lost cohesiveness when they traded Grainger 

AnsweredTHIS
AnsweredTHIS

Can they beat Indiana if they see them in the FIRST ( you like that?) round?

DawgnIT
DawgnIT

@ConfederateFlagBurner @carlerskineI thought any team that doesn't make the playoffs gets a chance at being in the lottery.  Isn't that why it's the lottery and not just a draft order set purely on records?