After a blowout victory (despite the final score) in Game 1, things came crashing back to Earth a bit for the Atlanta Hawks in Game 2, but they'll have every opportunity to get things back on track on Thursday night. The Indiana Pacers visit Philips Arena for the first time in the series, and with all kinds of story lines flying around, it should be an incredibly entertaining evening of basketball.
As our own Jason Walker pointed out on Wednesday, Game 3 is a pivotal one for both teams. The Pacers enter with their first sliver of momentum in what seems like months, but they must come in to what (hopefully) will be a hostile environment as a team with real issues. On the Hawks side, losing a home game after all of the positive emotions generated from Game 1 would be a bitter pill to swallow, and if Atlanta fails to hold serve on Thursday, Indiana resumes full control of the festivities.
From a match-up perspective, the Pacers made a few high-profile adjustments during their Game 2 win, and it is up to Mike Budenholzer and company to swing things back in the other direction. Jeff Teague failed to get off in the same way against Paul George, and the switch by Indy to keep Roy Hibbert near the rim didn't backfire in the way that many Hawks fans had hoped. Still, there were some very basic issues that popped up for Atlanta (i.e. leaving Luis Scola all alone on 4 straight trips, etc.) that can be fixed, and the sentiment that role players always perform better at home plays into the hands of guys like Mike Scott, Shelvin Mack and even DeMarre Carroll.
Thursday night's game is a tall task for the Hawks, regardless of the stakes, and if the Pacers keep their momentum flowing from Tuesday's win, it could be a very difficult mountain to climb. Still, Atlanta finds themselves with a very winnable game on their home floor, and with a win, the Hawks can quite reasonably claim to be the favorites in the series.
Game Date/Time: Thursday, April 24, 7:00 p.m.
Location: Philips Arena, Atlanta, Georgia
TV: NBATV, SportSouth
Radio: 92.9 "The Game" FM