If you have been more than a casual observer of this Atlanta Hawks team this season then Saturday's Game 3 blowout of the Indiana Pacers wasn't that surprising. Neither were their performances in Games 1 & 2 in Indianapolis. This team has battled consistency issues since the start of the season and they once again reinforced that they are capable of playing at a high level on any given night with Saturday's blow out win in Game 3.
Now the test is can they carry that performance over to Game 4 and sustain it throughout the rest of the series? Well that is the biggest question when you look at this team and the most difficult thing facing head coach Larry Drew who like many of his players, will be a free agent once the season comes to an end.
"This team has done something they've done all year long and that's respond," coach Larry Drew said. "After two losses in Indiana and coming home, which I really felt this group would respond, they came out early and the energy was there."
That quote from Drew isn't exactly correct as Atlanta quickly fell behind 8-1 in the games opening minutes prompting an early time out and a tongue lashing from their head coach. Following that time out they were a different team and for the first time in this series dictated what was going to happen at both ends of the floor.
Defensively in Games 1 & 2, the Hawks offered little resistance. Indiana was able to get whatever they wanted and into a comfort zone early in each game. Josh Smith was able to limit Paul George's cuts to the basket and essentially forced him into becoming a jump shooter. Roy Hibbert's struggles at Philips Arena continued as he went scoreless in the first half and the Hawks were ahead by more than 20 points when he finally scored his first basket.
Hibbert struggled early against Petro's length but the Hawks did a good job of contesting him at the rim also. When Petro subbed out he also struggled against the physical nature of Ivan Johnson who did not allow him to easily establish post position deep in the paint.
The Pacers and particularly George Hill, had torched the Hawks in the first two games of the series from three-point range but managed to make just 4-25 on Saturday.
For coach Frank Vogel the message to his club will be simple. Game 3 was such a complete breakdown that they will simply forget about it and lineup for Game 4 as they failed in pretty much every aspect.
For the Hawks dictating the pace doesn't start on the offensive end of the floor but rather defensively. Their improved attitude and aggressiveness led to turnovers by the Pacers which the Hawks converted into scoring opportunities. The blueprint for success is there for this team its just a matter of them recognizing it.