Three observations from the Atlanta Hawks’ surprising-but-not-entirely-shocking Game 1 victory over the Indiana Pacers.
1. The Hawks are perfectly suited to play the Pacers. That’s what kept this 1-versus-8 series from feeling like a typical mismatch. The Hawks are very good at spreading the floor and shooting the trey. The Pacers are good at clogging the lane. Roy Hibbert made the All-Star team because he’s good at challenging shots at the rim, but he’s lousy at challenging shooters 25 feet from the goal. The Hawks again worked their formula, shooting their 3-pointers — half of their first-quarter attempts were treys — and then attacking the resulting open spaces. Given that the Pacers got good by playing a particular style, it’s hard to imagine that they could change it. Which doesn’t bode well for the No. 1 seed.
2. The Pacers can’t say they weren’t warned. The April 6 thrashing administered by the Hawks on this same floor put Indiana on alert, but knowing what’s coming and stopping it are two different things. The Hawks didn’t lead 55-23 at the half this time — but the halftime score was tied at 50, a high number that was a good sign for the Hawks — but they never let the Pacers’ defense get a handle on them. And the Pacers aren’t going to beat the Hawks in a high-scoring game. They have to ugly it up, and twice in 13 days they’ve failed. Which doesn’t bode well for the No. 1 seed.
3. Jeff Teague cannot be be guarded by anyone on the Pacers’ roster. Some of this has to do with the Hawks’ spread-and-shoot style. Once the Pacers get to chasing the Hawks to the perimeter, the lane is open for Teague. But he still has to get past his man, and he destroyed first George Hill — like Teague, an Indy product — and then C.J. Watson off the dribble. If you hadn’t known the Pacers pride themselves on their defense, you’d never have guessed it from this game. They were wrong-footed and outsmarted and outclassed. Which doesn’t bode well for the No. 1 seed.
From myajc.com, our premium site: The Hawks beat the Pacers, and this time it’s not a shock.
Further reading: The Hawks have a real shot against Indiana.