The Indiana Pacers have clinched the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference and will subsequently enjoy home-court advantage throughout the NBA Playoffs. During the regular season, the Atlanta Hawks split the series 2-2 versus the Pacers, losing one of the games on their home court then defeating the Pacers at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, IN earlier this month. The Hawks will face a tough and sizable Indiana Pacers lineup and I expect this series to go at least five-six games.
|April||Opponent||Time||Local TV||Nat TV||Radio|
|Sat 19||vs Atlanta Playoffs Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis, IN||7:00 PM||ESPN||1070 The Fan|
|Tue 22||vs Atlanta Playoffs Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis, IN||7:00 PM||TNT||1070 The Fan|
|Thu 24||@ Atlanta PlayoffsPhilips Arena, Atlanta, GA||7:00 PM||FSI||NBATV||1070 The Fan|
|Sat 26||@ Atlanta PlayoffsPhilips Arena, Atlanta, GA||2:00 PM||TNT||1070 The Fan|
|Mon 28||vs Atlanta Playoffs Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis, IN||8:00 PM||NBATV||1070 The Fan|
|May||Opponent||Time||Local TV||Nat TV||Radio|
|Thu 1||@ Atlanta PlayoffsPhilips Arena, Atlanta, GA||TBD||1070 The Fan|
|Sat 3||vs Atlanta Playoffs Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis, IN||TBD||TNT||1070 The Fan|
Key players this series:
I think this series will be decided by players at the guard and forward position. Lance Stephenson will have to be aggressive and avoid foul trouble, otherwise the Pacers could find themselves in trouble defending guards at the perimeter. Jeff Teague could create problems for the Pacers with his speed and ability to penetrate to the basket while Paul Millsap and David West will definitely battle at the forward position. I believe West is a tougher player, but Millsap may have a slight edge on the offensive end of the floor. Luis Scola could play extensive minutes in this series, I think the Pacers will need the spark he provides coming off the bench in order to close this series out quickly.
Keys to winning the series:
The Hawks have to be aggressive, attack the rim, and Kyle Korver has to step up and make perimeter shots – he will more than likely see a lot of opportunities due to Jeff Teague‘s ability to collapse the defense resulting in the open man.
Head coach Frank Vogel will have to find the right match-up against this team. The Hawks are not a sizable team but they have speed and outside shooting that can make life very difficult for the Pacers. Defensively the Pacers could go with a man-to-man defense and throw David West and Luis Scola at Paul Millsap to slow him down. Lance Stephenson could exploit the undersized Teague by taking him down low in the post area which could lead to easy buckets or forcing Teague to foul – placing him on the bench early.
The Pacers will win this series in six games if not less. The Hawks are a descent team but lets face it, they won an abysmal 38 games this season. On the other hand, the Pacers have experienced turmoil among some of their key players. Pacers center Roy Hibbert took a few verbal shots at teammate Paul George, and during the final 10 games of the season the Pacers finished with a lackluster 4-6 record. For the Atlanta Hawks this could be the perfect time to strike a vulnerable team.