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Pacers-Hawks Game Review: Horford, Smoove, Lock Down Pacers

In the first (22) minutes of the Atlanta Hawks 94-84 win over the visiting Indiana Pacers, the guests scored (50) points and the Hawks (46). When the Hawks bench cleared (22) minutes later, the Hawks had outscored the Pacers 44-25. How that happened represented what the Hawks can be when they decide they want to be.

Before every game, Al Horford works on his mid range jump shots, endlessly firing away catch-and-shoot scenarios with the assistant coaches and teammate Zaza Pachulia. The result of such work has seen Al hop to the front of all centers in shooting 16-23 foot jump shots (46 percent, tied with David Lee), while maintaining his volume and Top 3 status in FG % at the rim (3rd with 71 percent, behind Dwight Howard and Kendrick Perkins).

What this means is that the Hawks have been able to begin to pull the defense out of the middle while Al is on the floor, having to respect Horford's ability to score from outside or get beat two points at a time. The effect of this is better spacing on the floor, allowing the guards more room to the basket, opening even more scoring ops for cutting players as well.

Case in point: Horford was killing the Pacers in the third quarter, scoring (12) of his (18) points in the quarter and going 6-8 from the field. Those baskets were on the left from 16 feet, the middle from 18 feet and the right at 18 feet. Horford's other hoops came from 6, 5, and at the rim. Because Horford was making the Pacers pay for leaving him open, the pick and roll had to be fearfully defended by the Pacers. With the new spacing created by Horford's presence outside the lane, with a little more than (4) minutes left in the game, Jamal Crawford easily entered the lane. When the defense now had to help from someone other than Horford's man, it allowed Josh Smith to strike towards the basket. Crawford accepted the defender and then lobbed a pass easily over that Pacer and into the hands of an eager Smoove who forcefully jammed the pass down for his last two points of the game. The game is so much easier when not having to play one on two, three, four, or five.

Defensively, Horford was huge, too, aiding the Hawks in limiting the Pacers to (1) offensive rebound the entire third quarter. Horford's part in the denial was to secure (5) defensive rebounds himself.

In the fourth quarter, with Horford essentially done for the day, it was Josh Smith's turn to score, marking (10) points of his own on a game high (20) for the day. Smith took all of his shots in the fourth near the rim, where he is 7th among all power forwards in converting.

Other Meaningful(less) Information and Thoughts

By the end of the serious minutes of the game, the guards (Mike Bibby, Joe Johnson, and Jamal Crawford) had (18) of the team's (24) assists, and was best used as facilitators, save for Crawford's opening explosion (5 for his first 5, 1 of his last 10) and Johnson's 5-9 first half. Johnson didn't need to be out there in the fourth quarter with the game no longer in doubt---he launched a couple of airballs from long range that only served to attempt to improve the (14) points he ended with--we call that "Reggie Theus shot selection."

Can't go without mentioning the strong play of the bench. Jeff Teague had a "block" on a breakaway from Danny Granger that was really a foul, but it was fun to anticipate that Teague was going to challenge that shot at any cost. This is a stark contrast to other guards on the team that don't want to get embarrassed on such plays.

Zaza Pachulia, meanwhile, also showed out--getting (6) points and rebounds in his (12) minutes. But that's not what he's going to focus on. Instead, what Zaza will no doubt boast about was his steal on a feed pass to Roy Hibbers, his nonchalant baiting of Hibbert over to him on the break, and then his "Magic" behind the back pass to Josh Smith for the jam. Hibbert was so embarrased by the play and the subsequent Zaza pantomime back to the Hawks bench, that Hibbert promptly came down the court and shoved Zaza to the floor. Good times.

Don't believe me? The proof is in the highlights--enjoy: