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Mark BradleyMark Bradley

Can the Hawks really win this series? Yes

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Game 2 could be the last Pacers home date of the season. (M. Bradley)

Game 2 could be the last Pacers’ home date of the season. (M. Bradley)

INDIANAPOLIS

I was on the record as believing the Atlanta Hawks had a very good chance — as good a chance as a No. 8 seed ever has — before the series began. With it beginning the way it did, I like their chances even more. I think the Indiana Pacers are more apt to collapse than to cohere, but I have, as we know, been wrong.

The Pacers have spent the hours after losing Game 1 sending mixed messages. On the one hand, they don’t believe there’s anything wrong with them. On the other, they might need to try something different. Such cognitive dissonance is, we can assume, preferable to admitting what has become increasingly apparent: That the East’s No. 1 seed has a real problem guarding the 38-44 Hawks.

“We feel really good about this matchup,” Hawks guard Kyle Korver said Monday, speaking after practice at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. But he also cautioned that matchups can cut both ways. So long as the sleeker Hawks are allowed to run free, Indiana is in trouble. But if the bigger Pacers can slow the pace and render subsequent games a halfcourt grind, the Hawks won’t seem so sleek.

It would be easy to dismiss Game 1 as an aberration, except that it wasn’t. As we know, the Pacers had played sub-.500 ball over the regular season’s final six weeks, and they’d been routed here by the Hawks on April 6. Granted, the playoffs are supposed to be a different entity, but how much different can they be? If you can’t guard a team in the regular season, what makes you think you will when it really matters?

Game 2 is essentially the season for the Pacers, who can’t afford another home loss. On desperation alone, you’d have to think they’ll prevail. But the Hawks clearly know how to hurt the Pacers, and it wouldn’t be a major shock if the hurting continued. Which is another way of saying: I really, really like the Hawks’ chances in this series.

From myajc.com, our premium site: Up 1-0, the soaring Hawks must press their advantage.

Also from myajc.com: For Hawks and Pacers, was Game 1 just one game?

Off Game 1: The Hawks win, and the No. 1 seed is in trouble.

From myajc.com: The Hawks handle the Pacers, and this time it’s no shock.

From last week: The Hawks have a real chance against Indiana.

 

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