Pero Antic doesn’t get much credit for the work he puts in on the floor each and every night, but for the Atlanta Hawks he’s been a hidden gem this season. The rookie free agent joined Atlanta after playing overseas for quite some time at the age of 31, and has done much more for the Hawks than GM Danny Ferry probably imagined when he signed him. Now, the team will need him to step up even more if they want to pull off the unthinkable.
The Hawks have a chance to make history when they square off against the Indiana Pacers in the first round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs. The Pacers come in as the No.1 seed in the Eastern Conference, but I can’t think of a team more beatable as a one seed than this Indiana team in recent memory. Usually, a No.8 seed like Atlanta would be no match for the top team in the East, but because the Miami Heat decided not to take the top spot this year it opened up the door for an upset.
The Hawks surprisingly split the season series 2-2 with Indiana, which includes a blowout win for Atlanta in their latest contest on the road. Want to know the Hawks record against Indiana when Antic played? They managed to go an impressive 2-0 with the Macedonian center in the lineup and the games weren’t even close. Atlanta beat the Pacers by 10 points in their first meeting at Philips Arena and then dominated them again in a 19-point victory on the road the last time these two faced off.
Antic played a key role in both of these two huge wins, too. He scored 16 points in the first contest, and then followed that up with an even better effort by recording 18 points and six rebounds to help lead Atlanta past Indiana. However, where Antic really made a difference was with his ability to make Roy Hibbert ineffective. In both match-ups, Hibbert literally did nothing while on the court because of the Macedonian’s ability to hit the three-ball.
The 7-foot-2 center refused to step out of the lane to guard him, and it forced coach Frank Vogel to make his center take a seat. In the first win for Atlanta, Hibbert only played for 22 minutes, recording a mere two points and four rebounds. Then, he somehow managed to play even worse in their next meeting. The Pacers’ center failed to record a single point or a rebound for that matter, which made coach Vogel sit him after playing for only nine minutes.
If Antic is able to exploit this mismatch again in this series, the Pacers are in serious trouble. Hibbert is a major factor for Indiana down in the low post and if he’s unable to handle the Atlanta center this time around, it could mean the unthinkable might actually happen. Without the big man controlling the paint, the Hawks can attack the rim freely and take down the No.1 seed in the East. They proved capable of doing this twice already this season, and I see no reason why they can’t do it again in the 2014 NBA Playoffs.