Posted: 11:00 am Friday, April 18th, 2014

The Hawks have a real shot against Indiana 

By Mark Bradley

Pero Antic, shown playing defense. (R. Brent Smith/AP)

Pero Antic, shown playing defense. (R. Brent Smith/AP)

The short answer: Yes, the Atlanta Hawks have a chance. The Indiana Pacers spent the regular season’s final weeks looking like a team in search of a place to fall down, but they reclaimed the No. 1 spot in the NBA East at the end — over Miami, which was playing badly itself — and now must face a team they don’t like facing.

The Hawks enter the playoffs with the worst record of any qualifier, but their history against the Pacers — they took them to six games last season and split four regular-season games this time, the most recent of which came 12 days ago in Indianapolis and saw the visiting team lead by 32 at the half — suggests they could make this a real series. The Hawks nearly fell into the lottery with their post-January performance, but they were still better down the stretch than Indiana, which was 10-13 over the final six weeks.

Stylistically, this is a much better match for the Hawks than the Heat would have been. Miami doesn’t really have a center. The Pacers have Roy Hibbert, who’s good when he’s allowed to stand in the lane and block shots but ineffective when asked to chase someone to the perimeter. Believe it or not, the absence of Al Horford could actually help the Hawks. Horford can shoot jumpers but not 3-pointers; 3-pointers are pretty much all Pero Antic, his replacement, tries. In the two games Antic has played against Indiana, the Hawks are 2-0 and Antic has scored 34 points.

It was in the Indy blowout earlier this month that Pacers coach Frank Vogel benched Hibbert for the second half, saying he looked tired. The same could be said for the rest of the first five. Indiana’s starters have played more minutes as a unit than any other NBA starting five, and none of the Pacers has looked as good over the season’s second half as the first. This is not some armor-plated No. 1 seed. This is a flawed team with obvious holes. (For one thing, it has a terrible bench.)

The Hawks won 18 fewer games than the Pacers, but strange things can happen in the postseason. A 37-win bunch of Hawks took the 66-win Celtics to a Game 7 in 2008, and I can envision something similar happening now. I think these Hawks can force a Game 7, and I think this team — unlike the callow crew of 2008 — would have a real shot at stealing a Game 7 on the road.

Lo and behold … : The Hawks need Indiana to be the No. 1 seed.

12 comments
Phillipdj
Phillipdj

A team 7 games under .500 is NOT going to beat a team that was regarded as possibly a top 2-3 team before the recent slump. It's the playoffs. Talent keys in on every possession and all hands are on deck. Pacers in 5.

Now NEXT year... Horford, Milsap, Korver, Lou, Teague and a big free agent signing with all that cap space - plus a top 16 draft pick... Hawks can pass Raptors, Bobcats, Nets, maybe Bulls.

Wilbo
Wilbo

Good God, man! Have you ever in your life written an even sort of realistic article about the prospects of an Atlanta pro sports team in the postseason?

DawgNole
DawgNole

This is the playoffs. The cream will rise to the top. The Hawks aren't the cream, unfortunately. If you've been following them since 1968, when they began play in ATL, you know they've NEVER made it past Round 2 even once in this city. And they've sent teams far better than this year's version to the postseason.

mic404
mic404

Pacers just don't match up against the Hawks, that blowout in Indy wasn't a fluke. They blew them out in Atlanta earlier in the season also, Hawks in 6!!!

BTC
BTC

ZZZZZZZ    Wake me when it's over...

bsc0793
bsc0793

There is no way, barring injuries, the Hawks win this series. The Pacers are deeper, more talented, better coached, have home-court advantage, and aren't ransacked with injuries like the Hawks.

AlwaysReady
AlwaysReady

The Pacers will get boat-raced this time.

honest_abe
honest_abe

hawks in 6.  


pacers are weak mentally.  the hawks are not an ideal match up for them.  the 3 ball will end up being the equalizer in the series.  


sidenote - it helps not having josh smith break any momentum with his ill advised shots, careless turnovers and overall petulant attitude.


go hawks.  


btw atlanta tthere's a ton of tickets still available.

JChikara
JChikara

No one really believes this team can win one game against Indiana. Every contending team will have a stretch in which they look weak for a period of time, but once Saturday begins, the real guns come out, and Atlanta will get boat-raced. The biggest thing to look for in this series is whether or not Lou Williams can increase his trade value with a good showing. Milsap will get swallowed up by the Pacers frontcourt, and Teague will have moments but nothing more. 

Wayne_stuck_in_AL
Wayne_stuck_in_AL

Please, Pacers, sweep in four so Gearon and Levenson don't make any more playoff revenue than they deserve.

AnsweredTHIS
AnsweredTHIS

@JChikara

HAHAHAHA Boat-raced! That term never gets old!!! Pacers in 5! Maybe 4 if Teague does not show up EVERY game!

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