A position-by-position breakdown of the Hawks-Pacers series.
Point guard: Jeff Teague vs. George Hill
The off-season workout partners will go head-to-head in this matchup. Teague had a career-best season in most statistical categories and averaged 14.6 points and 7.2 assists per game. He had 10 20-point, 10-assist games this season, and only two players in Atlanta history had more (Pete Maravich, 12, and Eddie Johnson, 11). Hill averaged 14.2 points and 4.7 assists. Both averaged 16 points and five assists in the regular-season matchups.
Shooting guard: Devin Harris vs. Lance Stephenson
A healthy Harris could be a difference-maker. He played just one of the four games between the teams. The Hawks are 21-6 when he plays more than 25 minutes. Harris averaged 9.9 points and 3.4 assists per game. He will help Teague run the point, and his ability to break down the Pacers’ big interior defense will be a plus. Stephenson averaged 8.8 points and 3.9 rebounds per game, but against the Hawks those numbers rose to 12.0 and 5.3.
Small forward: Kyle Korver vs. Paul George
This will be a matchup problem for the Hawks. George developed into an All-Star this season, in the absence of Danny Granger, with 17.4 points and 7.6 rebounds. The Hawks will give Korver defensive help with Josh Smith, DeShawn Stevenson and Dahntay Jones. Korver, who averaged 10.9 points, is an outside scoring threat. He ranked second in the NBA in 3-point field-goal percentage. He will take a streak of 73 consecutive games with a 3-pointer into next season.
Power forward: Josh Smith vs. David West
The versatile Smith averaged 17.5 points, 8.4 rebounds, 4.2 assists, 1.2 steals and 1.8 blocks. Kevin Durant and LeBron James were the only other players in the NBA to rank in the top 40 in those statistical categories. The Hawks were 16-3 this season when Smith and Al Horford finished with double-doubles. West averaged 17.1 points, 7.7 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 1.0 steals and 1.0 blocks. He upped his average to 21 points in three games against the Hawks. His physical presence and mid-ranger jumper will be an issue for the Hawks.
Center: Al Horford vs. Roy Hibbert
This is where the series could be decided. Typically when the Hawks face a big center, such as the 7-foot-2 Hibbert, they use a big lineup and move Horford to forward. They are limited in that ability with the loss of Zaza Pachulia. Horford had a terrific second half and finished the season averaging a double-double of 17.4 points and 10.2 rebounds. Horford, with his mid-range jumper, will be able to pull Hibbert away from the basket. Hibbert averaged 11.9 points and 8.3 rebounds and 2.7 blocks. Those numbers dropped to 9.5 points and 7.2 rebounds in four games against the Hawks.
The Hawks will use their bench, thinned by the losses of Lou Williams and Pachulia, to aid in matchups. Johan Petro will get time at center to help with Roy Hibbert. Certainly, Stevenson and Jones will enter games for their defensive ability. Rookie John Jenkins can provide an offensive spark with his outside shot. The Pacers counter with more size off their bench, particularly with Tyler Hansbrough and Gerald Green.