By Cody Williams @TheSizzle20 on April 16, 2014
Despite falling off quite dramatically in the second-half of the regular season, the Indiana Pacers are the top-seed in the Eastern Conference. Similarly, the Atlanta Hawks survived a multitude of injuries and losing-streaks to capture the eight seed. Here’s how the two teams match up for their first round series in the 2014 NBA Playoffs.
George Hill has become noticeably tentative and lackluster since the All-Star break while Jeff Teague has been one of the reasons that Atlanta has stayed afloat. Assuming Hill stays relatively unaggressive in this series, I’ve got to give the edge to Teague in this matchup.
In the four regular season meetings between these two teams, Kyle Korver absolutely lit it up, going 10-20 from long-range. Meanwhile, Lance Stephenson has been mediocre in the three games he played in versus Atlanta. Even with that, I’ve got to give the advantage to Stephenson. Between his defense and ability to provide a spark at any time, he just brings more.
This is the one of the big mismatches of the series, especially if George can get back into some kind of offensive rhythm. Carroll is quietly a huge part of the Hawks’ success and offense, but George’s defense can render him ineffective. The edge goes to George and it’s not really close.
Millsap has had the better year between the two power forwards, but has struggled against West and the Pacers this season, shooting 31.1 percent in the four matchups in the regular season against Indiana. Despite that, Millsap is the more versatile of the pair and can have a bigger impact on the series. I give the edge to the Hawks big man here, but only slightly.
Another huge mismatch in this series, Hibbert can absolutely dominate in the post, even with his recent offensive debacle. What’s interesting, though, is how Hibbert does defending Antic, who can stretch the floor and had success in the two games he played against the Pacers. I give the edge to Hibbert, but there are certainly ways Atlanta can turn that around with Antic.
From a talent standpoint, Indiana’s bench outweighs Atlanta’s. However, with how mightily the Pacers’ bench has struggled lately, you almost have to give the Hawks and Lou Williams the advantage in this department. With C.J. Watson back for the Pacers, though, I think Indiana can get back to taking the edge when the reserves are on the floor.
Frank Vogel has the clear advantage from an experience standpoint over Mike Budenholzer. Sure, Budenholzer has been here as an assistant with the Spurs, but Vogel has been the leader during the Pacers’ rise to prominence in recent years. As a result, Vogel has the edge until Budenholzer proves otherwise.
The two teams split the regular season series 2-2 this season with the losing team scoring fewer than 90 points three times. The two teams met in the first round of the postseason last year as well, with Indiana winning the series in six games. The glaring difference and likely x-factor, though, is the absence of Al Horford for Atlanta as he recovers from a torn pectoral muscle.
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