It could have been the final home game that Josh Smith played in Atlanta Hawks uniform, but despite the bleak chances of staying with his current NBA teams, he wasn’t going to let it get in the way of keeping their playoff chances alive and putting up his best game of the series so far, hoping he and his teammates can duplicate this ability on the road.
For a second straight game, the Atlanta Hawks encountered a flat Indiana Pacers. The Hawks had a 17 point lead at half time, only to be slightly taken back by a fiery Paul George in the third quarter, making all manner of extremely difficult shots. They regained control in the fourth, winning 102-91 and making it a tied, 2-2, series.
Josh Smith scored 29 points, adding 11 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 steals. After struggling early in the series, the introduction of Johan Petro to the starting lineup gave the Hawks quite the edge by forcing Paul George to contend with a strong Smith. The only way the Pacers had to stop him was go to some sort of hacking marathon in the third quarter, sending Smith to the line 16 times during the game, almost double the amount of free throw attempts from the first three games combined.
Smith also showed just how good of a defender he can be by making life quite difficult for Paul George for most of the game. George still finished with 21 points (on 6-16 shooting), but David West being guarded by bigger men has been extremely difficult on him, finishing with 5-14 from the field in what has been a relatively weak series for him so far.
One of the biggest welcomed additions to the Hawks’ offense was Kyle Korver. The faster offense and better passing meant more better looks for one of the best shooters in the NBA, who needs someone to create the opportunity for him. Korver hit five three pointers, finishing with 19 points, making as many shots in eight fewer attempts and hit more threes than all Pacers not named Paul George combined. He also tied the entire Pacers’ bench with his point production.
Maybe it’s only a matter of home & away, which is quite typical for young teams. Maybe the Pacers will play a lot better once they get their bearings back, looking more aggressive and physical in their home games. But their main problem right now is the inability to create any kind of easy shots on half court sets, with the Petro issue really confusing them offensively.
Without a different approach and a slight change in the rotation, possibly meaning more minutes for Tyler Hansrbrough on the floor or trying to counter size with small-ball, the Pacers might find that their troubles followed them back home as well.