Playoff Preview: Pacers-Hawks Game 3

The NBA Playoffs continue at 7 p.m. on NBATV as the Hawks host the Pacers to break a 1-1 tie in the Eastern Conference first round. 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:

And one 15-0 run later, everything seems fine in Indiana. Ignore the reports that Evan Turner and Lance Stephenson nearly threw down in practice before Game One. A blowout victory makes everyone feel mighty fine.

Of course, now comes the reality that it was just one game and the Hawks missed a lot of make-able shots as the Pacers built their lead with that massive third quarter run. One game can be awfully fluky. After two dominating wins by each team someone has to start establishing themselves in this series. Game Three stands to be a big turning point for this series.

Matchup to Watch: David West vs. Paul Millsap

These guys should really be the two stars of this series. Paul Millsap was Atlanta’s representative on the All-Star team and has been fantastic. His versatility and ability to spread the floor have been part of Atlanta’s big advantage over Indiana in this series with the team’s ability to spread the floor with five shooters. Millsap turned in a strong performance in Game Two, even in defeat, with 19 points following his 25-point Game One.

David West is very much the heart beat of the Pacers. He embodies what they want to be. He is tough and solid all around. Not prone to mistakes. But so far in this Playoffs, he has not lived up to his billing. If Roy Hibbert will not carry Indiana’s interior, West will have to do so. And he needs to start pulling his weight after scoring a total of 16 points and five rebounds in the first two games. Indiana is an inside-out team and that toughness is being tested.

RoyHibbert121212Stat to Chew On: Hibbert’s struggles

A lot is being made of Roy Hibbert’s struggles so far in the Playoffs. His numbers are not pretty with 14 points and 12 total rebounds in two games. He is shooting a paltry 5 for 16. That is awful, especially for a center. And he has done this while taking up a little more than 54 minutes. His defensive impact has been dulled by Pero Antic’s presence on the 3-point line. It feels like Hibbert has thrown the whole team out of whack.

And his numbers put him in historically bad company. Particularly for the Playoffs.

Only 28 players in NBA history have averaged 7.0 points per game or fewer and 6.0 rebounds per game or fewer while shooting less than 32 percent from the floor and playing more than 27.0 minutes per game. Hibbert is the only one doing it this year and joins such luminary Playoff presences as Tayshaun Prince in 2009, Kyle Korver in 2005, Dan Majerle in 1999 and K.C. Jones in 1967.

Bloggers’ Corner:

Brad Rowland of Peachtree HoopsFrom a match-up perspective, the Pacers made a few high-profile adjustments during their Game 2 win, and it is up to Mike Budenholzer and company to swing things back in the other direction. Jeff Teague failed to get off in the same way against Paul George, and the switch by Indy to keep Roy Hibbert near the rim didn’t backfire in the way that many Hawks fans had hoped. Still, there were some very basic issues that popped up for Atlanta (i.e. leaving Luis Scola all alone on 4 straight trips, etc.) that can be fixed, and the sentiment that role players always perform better at home plays into the hands of guys like Mike Scott, Shelvin Mack and even DeMarre Carroll.

Pace Miller of Pacers PulsePaul George was looking MVP-conversation-like tonight, finishing with a gaudy stat line of 27, 10 and 6, together with 4 steals, a block and just a single turnover. Most impressive was the 9-16 from the field, 5-7 from three-point range, including a huge 28-footer at the third quarter buzzer to push the lead to 14. He did take some bad shots in the first half and had a hard time staying in front of Jeff Teague at times, but in the second half the team came together to help him out — and that made all the difference.

Philip’s Running Prediction: If you had asked me before the series began, Game Three is probably the game I would have given to the Hawks. So things are about on schedule. Atlanta is going to remain a tough out for Indiana as the team is just a bad matchup for Indiana. The Hawks are going to keep putting the pressure on. It would not surprise me if the Hawks win this one. But I still think the Pacers are the better team in the end and begin to find themselves on this road trip. Pacers are on track to win in six.

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