One of the major unknowns coming into Game 1 between the Atlanta Hawks and the Indiana Pacers was what lineup the Hawks and head coach Larry Drew might go with. Drew elected to go with the small lineup which matched up Kyle Korver against Paul George from the start. The results didn't work out well for the Hawks as George dominated the game from the free throw line in a triple-double performance.
"My teammates were able to make shots and I was trying to rebound the ball," George sasid. "I said for this playoff run I'm leaving everything on the floor. I know as a team what is expected of me now. I want the pressure. I'll do whatever it takes. I don't want to be known as a scorer or defender. I want to be a ballplayer."
The Hawks had success early in the season with a big lineup that featured Zaza Pachulia at center and with Josh Smith and Al Horford deployed at the forward positions. With Pachulia out with an injury, Larry Drew didn't have that luxury in the third meeting between the two clubs. In that game the Hawks went small with Horford at center and DeShawn Stevenson at small forward. Drew tried to go big in the fourth and final meeting by inserting Johan Petro in the center position and former Pacer Dahntay Jones at shooting guard. Neither worked as the Hawks lost both meetings in Indiana.
Stevenson and Korver got the bulk of the minutes matched up against George on Sunday who went just 3-13 from the field but was 17-18 from the free throw line finishing with 23 points.
Possible adjustments that Drew could make include giving Dahntay Jones a shot at defending George in place of Stevenson. Drew could also elect to go big with Petro at center and let Josh Smith guard George from the outset. Another way to get Smith matched on George would be to leave Horford at center but start Ivan Johnson in what could be the Hawks most physical front court combination.
The physical aspect can't be overlooked because the Hawks got beat handedly on the boards and spent much of the day complaining about calls that never came on the offensive end. Its a tough situation when a team has a 34-14 advantage in free throw attempts but you must still play through it.
It looked like the Hawks rattled in the third quarter and the TNT broadcast captured Pacers head coach Frank Vogel telling his team that he sensed Atlanta was on the verge of being knocked out. The knockout punch wouldn't come until the fourth but it was clear that the Hawks were rattled by the Pacers' physical nature and that must be addressed before Game 2.