The Hawks return to action on their home-floor tonight as they face Eastern Conference foe Indiana. Josh Smith, who sprained his ankle against Houston on Friday, is a go for tonight’s game after missing the road win against the Thunder. Smoove is ready to get back on the floor, and, while he is always a major factor, he is even more important tonight against the very big and very long Pacers.
“It feels good, we’ll see how it feels tonight, but you know me, I can’t stay out for too long,” said Smith.0” I want to be out here helping my teammates out. It’s no concern, obviously it’s not 100 percent, but your body’s never 100 percent. They got Roy Hibbert, Tyler Hansbrough coming off the bench, David West, their guards come in and rebound too and they definitely crash the boards and we’re gonna need everybody in attendance and gang rebound.”
All of the players are looking at this game as a chance for redemption after a disappointing loss to the Rockets in the home opener. Everyone we talked to was focused on getting a win in front of the home fans and carrying over the energy, focus, and intensity they had in OKC.
“Most definitely [we want to get a win for the home fans], [the Rockets game] was disappointing,” said Smoove. “We didn’t come out with the energy we needed and today it’s going to be a different story. We know the letdowns and mistakes we made last game here and we plan on correcting them.”
“Well, we’re out on our home-court. We threw up a brick last game we were here,” said Lou Williams. “We let Houston do whatever they wanted to do, and Indiana comes in with a completely different game style and we just have to rebound the basketball and play up-tempo.”
“I think we’re feeling a good bit better about ourselves after the second game,” said Korver. “That first game, was a bummer, I don’t think I’ve been that low after a regular season game in a while. I think we had a lot of expectations and hopes and it didn’t go real well.”
The biggest challenge the Hawks will face from the Pacers is their length. The Pacers are big at every position on the floor and have a lot of players with versatility to play and guard multiple positions. Roy Hibbert at 7-foot-2 and David West at 6-foot-10 provide a lot of length in the paint and Hibbert is one of the best shot blockers in the league. The key for the Hawks will be constantly attacking and pressuring the Pacers defense as well as using their speed in both half-court sets and transition.
“It’s very important [to run]. They have a lot of length and they’re a great rebounding team,” said Korver. “We don’t want to get caught up in a type of game where we just run out and put up bad shots, but pushing the pace is something that we want to do every night, but tonight for sure.”
“We just have to continue to attack and keep pressure on [Hibbert],” Lou Will stated. “He can’t block them all, I’m sure he’ll have his fair share, but, you know, he can’t block shots we don’t shoot so we just have to stay aggressive and try our luck.”
“We have to [get out and run],” remarked DeShawn Stevenson. “I think we have a fast, talented, quick squad so we have to use our quickness and at the same time stop them on the boards and posting up.”
The Hawks will likely put a big lineup out on the floor to start in order to match the size of the Pacers. Zaza and Al are the likely frontcourt pairing, while Josh will get the start on the wing. Teague and Korver will probably be the backcourt duo, but Harris could find his way into that two-guard spot. Larry Drew will have to make a lot of tough matchup decisions tonight especially on the perimeter where the Pacers are very long at the guard spots. Inside, Hibbert and Zaza will see a lot of each other as Drew will probably try to match minutes as much as possible.
The game will provide the Hawks with a lot of challenges, but the Hawks have a lot of confidence after beating the Thunder and seem to have ironed out some of their biggest issues from the opener. The Hawks are very much ready for the game and as Kyle Korver stated with a coy smile, “It’s gonna be tough, it’s gonna be a challenge, but we’ve got a little gameplan for them.”
Kyle Korver talked about his struggles, and thought back to something he was told as a rookie by Allen Iverson.
"I've just been shooting like garbage. I had great looks in Oklahoma City the other night, but just rushed them. Those things will come...I was told my rookie year by Allen Iverson, 'Shooters shoot! Shooters shoot the ball!' So that's what I do. People talk about having a short memory for shooters. Some nights the ball doesn't go in the hole and you feel out of sync, but there's 80 games left."