HAWKS WILL WIN …
If they play their up-tempo/assist generating style. The Hawks want to run. That’s the way management built the team this season. However, the pace of games slows considerably during the playoffs, and the Hawks must adjust. That doesn’t mean they can’t run when the opportunity presents itself. If Jeff Teague and Devin Harris can get the Hawks in transition and break down the Pacers’ interior defense, they will put themselves in a position to win. It will be especially important, and the Pacers are an effective half-court defensive team.
If they make their 3-pointers. The Hawks finished seventh in the NBA in 3-point field-goal percentage (37.1 percent). Kyle Korver ranks second among players (45.7 percent). When those long-range shots are falling, from Korver, Teague, Harris and DeShawn Stevenson in particular, the Hawks are most effective. It also allows them to spread the court and thus play up-tempo and have more opportunities to get the ball into the post for Al Horford and Josh Smith.
If they rebound. The Pacers lead the NBA in rebounding and have a great deal of size in 7-foot-2 center Roy Hibbert. Add physical forward David West with Tyler Hansbrough coming off the bench, and the Pacers really get after the ball. The Hawks will have to control that aspect of the Pacers’ game. They especially cannot allow two- and three-shot attempts. In that regard, the Hawks miss Zaza Pachulia, who started at center in the two regular-season wins over the Pacers. If they Hawks rebound, from all positions, their chances of winning increase greatly.
HAWKS WILL LOSE …
If the offense becomes isolation heavy. The Pacers will try to slow the pace of the game and make it a half-court affair. At times this season the Hawks have relied too much on one-on-one play. That means Horford and Josh Smith in the post, but it also means perimeter players hoisting ill-advised 3-pointers. The ball has to move in the Hawks’ offense. The more it doesn’t, the more the Pacers will collapse on the ball.
If they turn the ball over. Yes, the Hawks want to play up-tempo. However, they can’t afford to be careless with the ball, not in the playoffs when each possession is at a premium. This is no time for the fancy or high-risk pass. The Hawks averaged 14.9 turnovers. If they have that many per game in the series they won’t advance. They are 6-8 in games this season when Teague has five or more turnovers.
If adversity gets the best of them. The Hawks have lost their composure with the officials several times this season. They cannot happen in the postseason, especially when games become more physical and officials tend to let players play. By needing a win in Indianapolis to advance, the Hawks are likely to face adversity in some form, whether it’s a bad call, a missed shot, a turnover or letting the Pacers’ home crowd become a factor. Handle the adversity, they can win. Fail to handle the adversity, they have little chance.