The Atlanta Hawks return to Indiana for Game 5 against the Pacers where their best-of-seven series has been reduced to a best-of-three. Atlanta shocked the Pacers by taking Game 1 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. The Pacers countered with a win in Game 2. The Hawks took Game 3 at Philips Arena before Indiana avoided falling in a 3-1 hole with a 91-88 win on Saturday.
The series has been a chess match of sorts between the two coaches Frank Vogel and Mike Budenholzer. Vogel has been forced to toy with smaller lineups in hopes of matching up with a smaller and quicker Hawks team. Vogel has also shifted his lineup due to the struggles of center Roy Hibbert who is averaging 6.0 points and 4.3 rebounds while shooting 33 percent in the series.
Coming into the series there was a lot of talk about Hibbert's matchup with Hawks center Pero Antic. As the series has progressed that matchup has been less of an issue due to the shooting struggles of Antic who is averaging 4.0 points on just 22 percent shooting. Budenholzer's other primary option at center Elton Brand hasn't fared any better as he has made just 20 percent of his shots in the series. That has forced the Hawks to go small and without a center for longer stretches and has provided more playing time for players like Mike Scott.
At this point in the series its doubtful either team has a surprise left to deploy. Now its about execution and making shots. One thing the Hawks need to improve on from Game 4 is upping the pace of the game and that starts with point guard Jeff Teague. Anytime the Hawks are forced to go against a set Pacers' defense things are going to be difficult whether Hibbert is on the floor or not.
Indiana on the other hand is more than happy to see the pace grind to a halt. That plays to their strengths and helps neutralize the advantage that Teague and Paul Millsap have at their positions.
In a sense, Indiana has had a pair of defining moments in this series already. They avoided going down 2-0 by winning Game 2 going away and stole back home court advantage by coming from behind late in Game 4. They will return to Indiana for what in all probability will be a loud and enthusiastic crowd. So far the Hawks have done a good job to avoid the haymaker punch early. A fast start would help Atlanta's cause and take that loud Indiana crowd out of the equation.
Game Date/Time: Monday, April 28, 8:00 p.m.
Location: Bankers Life Fieldhouse
TV: NBA TV, SportSouth
Radio: 92.9 "The Game" FM