The Atlanta Hawks were always going to be a tough matchup for the Indiana Pacers. After two games, Atlanta has managed to solve Indiana’s stingy defense and win a game in Bankers Life Fieldhouse as they head back home for Game 3. The Pacers had struggled for a while before entering the playoffs as a No. 1 seed, but they were still heavy favorites against a sub-.500 Atlanta team. Not many people saw this coming.
The main problem with the Pacers in this series is their stubbornness in staying big while Atlanta is stretching the floor and playing small ball. Indiana coach Frank Vogel made some nice adjustments during Tuesday’s win, mainly having Paul George guard Jeff Teague and switching George Hill to Kyle Korver. Despite this, the Pacers may be in some considerable danger in Atlanta if they continue to play David West and Roy Hibbert together for long stretches.
To combat this, Vogel needs to give seldom-used forward Chris Copeland some meaningful minutes going forward. Copeland, a fan favorite who came over from the New York Knicks in the offseason, has been hidden deep on the Pacers’ bench for the majority of the season. But he is just what the Pacers could use in the series. While he is certainly not an elite defender, Copeland will provide better closeouts on the Hawks’ Paul Milsap and Pero Antic than the slow-footed Hibbert and West.
Copeland could also solve some of the Pacers’ issues on the offensive side of the ball. Floor spacing for Indiana remains their biggest issue, and a dead-eye shooter like Copeland could go a long way towards solving that problem. He has also shown the ability to drive to the basket and hit pull-up mid-range shots, so he is more of a complete scorer than many people think.
Basketball, ultimately, is a game of adjustments, and never is this more true than the playoffs. If Frank Vogel wants to advance his team to the second round, Copeland must see the floor in this series.