The problems are mounting quicker by the day for the Indiana Pacers in the 2014 NBA Playoffs. They were shocked in game one when the Atlanta Hawks hit them with a haymaker, but seemed to respond in game two as they got back to playing the elite defense that got them the one-seed in the East. However, game three in Atlanta saw things swing back in the Hawks’ favor.
Everything about this series seems centered around the fact that the Pacers are struggling so mightily. That’s warranted because they undoubtedly are. Roy Hibbert is a shell of the player we’ve seen he can be, their role players are struggling to effectively fit their niches, and Paul George has been inconsistent.
What’s lost in the shuffle and deserves more attention, though, is how well the Hawks have played in this series. This hasn’t looked like a team that’s missing its best player and that finished the season with a record below .500. Instead, this Atlanta team has looked like one that can hang with any squad in the league.
Pero Antic hasn’t done much statistically in the past two games, but he’s been huge for the Hawks spreading the floor and stretching Indiana’s defense. DeMarre Carroll has been a fantastic role player at the small forward, guards off of the bench have helped produce, and Paul Millsap has continued to be a force.
The biggest factor for the Hawks, though, has been the masterful performance of point guard Jeff Teague. Teague has risen to the occasion more than any player in this series, putting up 21.3 points, 6.3 assists, 3.3 rebounds and 1.3 steals per game while shooting 42.3 percent from the floor and 36.4 percent from three. He’s been able to score and distribute nearly at will and has been a clear leader for this team.
While the Hawks have certainly capitalized on the issues within the Pacers right now, they deserve more credit than it seems that they’re getting. They’ve consistently stayed true to their game of moving the ball quickly and crisply on offense and playing tough defense. They’ve presented Indiana with a matchup that can take them out of their game. They’ve had their stars and role players alike not shrink from the moment. Essentially, the Hawks have been doing it right thus far.
The biggest question facing this series is if the Pacers will be able to fix everything and start clicking once again. If not, the Hawks have shown they are able to and will get the job done. Up 2-1 in the series, don’t think that Atlanta is going to roll over and let Indiana work out their issues. They’ve played entirely too well to think that’s even a possibility.