Teams that can spread the floor and shoot the basketball tend to be the teams that give the Indiana Pacers the most trouble. Shooting just happens to be the area that Indiana’s first-round playoff opponent, the Atlanta Hawks, excels in.
Floor spacing, especially on offense, has been a huge area of weakness for the Pacers this season. Atlanta, on the other hand, has dead-eye shooters like Kyle Korver, who can have an impact on the offensive side of the floor by simply standing in the corner and drawing their defense. Couple this spacing with a point guard in Jeff Teague, who is able to take advantage of driving lanes, and Atlanta will have many opportunities to get some easy buckets. To combat this, the Pacers will need Roy Hibbert to shake out of his decline and stay focused on his post defense.
The key matchup will be David West vs. Paul Milsap. Atlanta’s PF was a savvy pickup from general manager Danny Ferry last offseason, and his production on both sides of the floor is the main reason why Atlanta snuck into the playoffs to begin with. Milsap’s ability to hit both the mid-range and three-point jump shots will force David West away from the basket, opening up even more driving lanes for the Hawks’ offense. Again, Hibbert will once again be put in a tough position.
The Indiana Pacers should win this series quite easily, but it would be ill-advised to discount the Hawks. The Pacers have shown signs of recovery after a prolong slump over the past two months, but by no means are they playing at the level they were earlier this season. They are still vulnerable, and Atlanta is in good position to take advantage if Indiana does not come ready to play.