Two series, both tied at 2-2, heading into game 5: The Indiana Pacers coming to play the Toronto Raptors and the Boston Celtics, with two consecutive wins, hosted by the Atlanta Hawks.
The Pacers and the Raptors, interestingly, have very similar numbers. They’re both averaging 93 points per game in this series, which is just fine for Indiana, not one of the league’s better offensive teams. In the previous game they didn’t even need a whole lot from Paul George, who is averaging 26.3 points while shooting 44.4% from the field. Ian Mahinmi and George Hill each scored 22 points, and combined with a very good defensive performance, it was enough to head back to Canada with some momentum.
The story of the series so far has been Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan shrinking in size and especially in point production. They combined to score 44.7 points per game in the regular season, both reaching career highs. DeRozan has been guarded a lot by George, which might help us understand why he’s been so bad. He’s shooting only 29.6% from the field, not making a single three pointers and averaging 13.3 points. Lowry, seeing a lot of Hill in front of him, is averaging 15.5 points but shooting only 32.2% from the field.
As long the as the Pacers keep forcing Toronto to try and win games with isolations and three point shots (only 27.3% from beyond the arc in the series) they’re going to be in a good position to win. The moment Jonas Valanciunas is involved, the trouble begins for the Pacers. But for most of the series, they’ve been doing a good job of keeping the ball out of his hands, making him rely on offensive rebounds and the few times he’s been noticed, averaging 15 points and 13.5 rebounds, but he could be a lot more productive with the right changes.
In Atlanta, the Hawks will try to course correct and put themselves back on a path to the playoffs. They’ve lost two games in which they’ve found it difficult to slow down Isaiah Thomas, and in the previous game Marcus Smart also. The Celtics, meanwhile, have been able to stop the Hawks from hitting threes, which is a huge part of their plan. Kyle Korver might be doing OK (40.6% from beyond the arc) but as a team they’re shooting just 27.6% from three.
Another issue for the Hawks has been the play of their bench. Dennis Schroeder isn’t playing a whole lot (less than 20 minutes per game) and shooting just 35% from the field. Mike Scott has been the only other one contributing anything, while the Hawks have shrunk their rotation to eight players. The Celtics need to keep finding contribution from others and especially Jae Crowder, averaging just 8 points in the series so far. With Thomas grabbing so much attention, there’s bound to be someone who can step up on a regular basis and deliver a knockout blow to the Hawks.