The 2014 NBA Playoffs get underway for the Atlanta Hawks on Saturday evening for Game 1 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. Atlanta enters the postseason as a heavy underdog despite splitting four regular season matchups against the Pacers.
If you look at the regular season matchups there was a common theme in both Atlanta wins versus the losses. The Hawks knocked down at least 10 three pointers in both victories and were able to dictate the pace of the game. Pero Antic played in both victories and was a huge factor averaging 17 points while shooting a ridiculous 72 percent from the field. If this tells us anything its that Atlanta needs to spread the floor and draw the Indiana defense away from the basket in order to be successful.
Jeff Teague plays a huge part in making that happen for the Hawks. Teague averaged 20 points per game in the two wins and just 8.5 points in the two losses. Atlanta needs Teague's penetration off of the pick in roll to help provide space for Atlanta's shooters.
Atlanta was able to win two games from the Indiana in the regular season despite a sub par contribution from Paul Millsap who averaged just 8.8 points on 31 percent shooting in the four meetings. Millsap carried the Hawks at various points in the regular season and Atlanta needs to find a way to get him going against the Pacers in the playoffs.
Defensively Indiana presents a variety of challenges for the Hawks. Atlanta was a very inconsistent defensive team during the regular season and transition defense and closing out on shooters will be paramount in the series.
The Hawks would be even bigger underdogs if not for the second half swoon suffered by the Pacers that saw them go 23-19. That is best described by the struggles of center Roy Hibbert whose play fell off drastically. He comes into the playoffs mired in a 1-16 slump and shooting just 23.5 percent in April.
The goal for the Hawks is to go out and play free, loose and without pressure because no one is giving them much of a chance in the series. If they can find a way to steal a game in Indiana then they may see the pressure really start to mount on the Pacers.
Game Date/Time: Saturday, April 19, 7:00 p.m.
Location: Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis, Indiana
TV: ESPN, SportSouth
Radio: 92.9 "The Game" FM