The Atlanta Hawks needed to answer with physicality after being bullied and beaten through the first couple of games in the series. Maybe it’s a little bit too late, but at least they showed it’s possibly with Al Horford at his best and Josh Smith attacking the basket often and early to get themselves their first win in the 2013 NBA postseason.
The Indiana Pacers simply didn’t show up to game 4 after taking a 2-0 lead thanks to their home court. Just like the regular season, the team at home wins, and the Pacers had a very rough time translating their dominance in the first two games to the third one.
Josh Smith was all over Paul George from the tip off, taking six of his first nine shots within five feet of the hoop. He finished with 14 points, 6 rebounds and 6 assists, not needing to play too many minutes after a surprisingly dominant first half, keeping the Pacers at an embarrassing 30 points, en route to a 90-69 win. If Smith continues to play close to the basket, the Hawks don’t have such a bad chance of making this into quite an interesting finale to the series.
After being praised for their defense during the season, the Hawks finally showed up in game 3. They kept the Pacers at 27% on half-court possessions and an embarrassing 2-21 from beyond the arc. The Hawks simply used a much bigger lineup to counter the Pacers, giving up on the idea of trying to outrun them. By using Josh Smith at small forward they managed to make life quite impossible for Paul George, who allowed only six field goals as a defender in the first two games.
On offense, he was just as bad as his backcourt teammates. Along with Lance Stephenson and George Hill, the three combined to shoot 6-26 from the field. David West (18 points) looked like the only player capable of handling the man guarding him, but his defense wasn’t quite as adept.
Al Horford was quite subdued in the first couple of games, battling with Roy Hibbert. Being a little more loose, he finished with 26 points and 16 rebounds in game that might provide the spark the Hawks needed to make more of a contest in this series.
This team did something they’ve done all year long, they responded. We were ready to go. Before the game, I went in the locker room to give my speech and it was quiet in there. That told me they were focused.
So it this all it took? Putting Johan Petro in the lineup, doing his thing for only 14 minutes, but completely unhinging the physical advantage the Pacers held through the first few games? Maybe it has to do with the fact that the Pacers, regardless of the personnel, can’t win in Atlanta, tracing back their previous win there to December 2006.
Looking this unresponsive and lost to a simple yet very meaningful lineup and approach change might mean that both their coach and the players themselves are not as ready to challenge for the Eastern crown as some may have thought.