Playoff Preview: Hawks-Pacers Game 1

They are here! The Playoffs are here!

The NBA Playoffs continue at 7 p.m. on ESPN as the Pacers host the Hawks in the 1-8 matchup of the Eastern Conference. Before each game, we will have a quick preview of the upcoming game with a matchup to watch and a stat to chew on as you watch the game.

Previously on Lost:

The last time these two teams got together was not so long ago. Just two weeks have passed since the Hawks flat-out dominated the Pacers in a 107-88 win at Indianapolis. That was probably the low point for the Pacers in this late stretch where they just could not put wins together. The going theory — or at least my going theory — was Indiana was bored and needed the Playoffs to start to dial back in.

Atlanta held Indiana to 23 first-half points in that meeting, however, and it was not so long ago that it should be ignored. Remember, this was the game where Roy Hibbert sat out the entire second half and raised some controversy and discussion about the Pacers. Jeff Teague scored 25 points and Pero Antic had 18 points, in what could be a difficult matchup for Hibbert this series.

Matchup to Watch: Pero Antic vs. Roy Hibbert

That matchup between Hibbert and Antic is going to be key. Antic is a sort of stretch-5 and the Hawks use him exactly that way. Antic is going to hang out around the 3-point line and try to make 3-pointers. Antic shot 32.7 percent from beyond the arc and is not afraid to take jumpers. The Hawks want to keep that paint clear for Paul Millsap and Jeff Teague to drive.

Antic’s propensity to shoot could keep Roy Hibbert away from the basket. That is not where Indiana wants him. Hibbert has to do a good job making the Hawks pay for keeping Antic in by posting up and being active around the basket. Antic has to make shots to make Hibbert uncomfortable and open that paint up. Going to be interesting to see how these two match up and which one wins the tug-of-war.

TyrekeEvansKings_Pacers092712Stat to Chew On: Slumping Pacers

The Pacers’ slump the last month or so of the season has been pretty well documents. But take a look at the actual numbers of it.

Indiana’s last 20 games saw the team post an offensive rating of 98.7 with a defensive rating of 101.4. The Pacers’ season numbers were an offensive rating of 101.5 and a defensive rating of 96.7. The offense already was not so great, but the defense was otherworldly. That defense has slipped so much in the last 20 games.  That is what will have to intensify for the Pacers to accomplish their goals.

Bloggers’ Corner:

Pace Miller of Pacers PulseConversely, the Pacers’ struggles since the All-Star break have been well documented, so there’s no need to go there again. The last time these two teams met, April 6, the Hawks dropped the Pacers to their lowest point of the season, a 107-88 drubbing at Bankers Life Fieldhouse that ended a dreadful 3-8 stretch. Since then, the Pacers are 3-1 and finished the season with 2 consecutive wins, including one against the contending OKC Thunder. Two of the games (Milwaukee and Orlando) were essentially played by the reserves, so it’s hard to tell whether the Pacers have really turned the corner or will continue to struggle.

BTRowland of Peachtree Hoops: Rebounding is one of the most overlooked parts of basketball. Yes, you may see the rebounding margin referenced in a place such as this when it is quite lopsided, simply to prove a point, but in general, the average fan largely ignores the glass. However, if there is a singular indication (aside from simply making open shots/threes) that could provide some insight to the Atlanta Hawks’ upset bid against the Indiana Pacers, it could come on the glass.

Philip’s Running Prediction: I am in the camp that says the Pacers are (relatively) fine and just got bored with the regular season with the Playoffs coming up. I think they will be more dialed in now that the games actually matter. There will be some roughness to get into form, but it should come quickly. Maybe a wake up call with an early Hawks lead tonight gets them there. But I suspect the Pacers win this easily in five.

About Philip Rossman-Reich

Philip Rossman-Reich is the managing editor for Crossover Chronicles and Orlando Magic Daily. You can follow him on twitter @OMagicDaily