Game 5 of the first-round NBA playoff series between the Indiana Pacers and Atlanta Hawks certainly wasn’t easy on the eyes. It was probably a good thing that the action was tucked away on NBA TV as the Boston Celtics and New York Knicks went at it on TNT.
The third quarter alone lasted almost an hour (57 minutes to be exact), due to an extremely quick whistle and both teams seemingly willing to commit a foul every trip down the floor. Three Hawks were hit with technical fouls for a variety of reasons, while their head coach, Larry Drew, gazed aimlessly onto the court as Josh Smith picked up his fourth and fifth fouls early in the quarter.
But maybe this is the formula to Indiana’s success in these playoffs.
Use their league-leading defense to frustrate their opponent and, for lack of better words, make the game ugly. It certainly has worked in their three wins over Atlanta through the first five games where both of their losses have come in up-and-down tilts that saw the Hawks get out in transition more often than not.
Atlanta shot a series-low 33 percent from the field, knocked in only three of their 14 three-point attempts and were held to just 10 points in transition despite 16 turnovers committed by Indiana.
The Pacers were certainly the main contributor to the Hawks struggles on offense, as they did what they do best. Indiana essentially removed the paint and the three-point arc from Atlanta’s offensive repertoire, as a whopping 42 percent of the Hawks’ shots came from the mid-range area, per NBA.com. In fact, in all three Indiana victories in this series, 34 percent of the Hawks shots have been mid-range jumpers, while that number drops to just 26 percent in their two wins.
There are a select few teams in the NBA that can win shooting that many two-point jump shots, and one of them isn’t Atlanta.
This is what the Pacers have relied on all season long, though. They don’t force a massive amount of turnovers or swat an abundance of their opponent’s shots, but rather force the opposition to take the least efficient shot in basketball more than they would like to.
Now, as the series shifts back to Atlanta for Game 6, the Pacers will look to end not only the series, but also a win-less drought at Philips Arena that has stretched out over multiple seasons.
The framework is certainly there, ugly or not.
Brandon Curry is an NBA writer for Rant Sports. Follow Brandon on Twitter @ByBrandonCurry