This series is better than you think it is.
Which judging by the Internet buzz isn’t saying much. You all think this is vanilla ice cream in a cup. And not the good stuff, you think this is ice milk.
This series is more entertaining than that. The Pacers with Paul George and David West are more than just defense — oh, make no mistake, the Pacers want some 1990s throwback physicality if they can get away with it. But they can play, too. The Hawks have the talent to match that in Josh Smith (who will play on his tweaked ankle), Al Horford and occasionally Jeff Teague.
The Hawks got their way in Game 1 — it was physical, they punched the Hawks on the nose and the Hawks retreated.
The Atlanta Hawks can win Game 2 of this series. They can make this a series. But they are going to have to do three things.
1) Match the Pacers physical play. Atlanta needs to show the toughness it should have on this roster — Ivan Johnson, DeShawn Stevenson — and stand toe-to-toe with the Pacers. Because you know Game 2 is going to feel a lot like Game 1 and Hawks coach Larry Drew admitted his team got manhandled in Game 1.
2) Stop shooting themselves in the foot. Play your best players. If Al Horford picks up a couple quick fouls again KEEP PLAYING HIM. I’m talking to you, Larry Drew. As was well explained at Peachtree Hoops, you yanked him after in the first half with two fouls in Game 1 and never got back into the flow. Horford is not a foul sponge, the guy is not going to keep fouling, and he’s your best player. So play him.
3) Get out and run on the fast break. Every team in the NBA — Miami, OKC, everyone — is going to struggle to score on the Pacers if you let them come down, put Roy Hibbert in the middle and set their defense. Teague can be good in the open court, Smith knows how to run, as do a lot of the Hawks. Get your looks before the defense sets.
For the Pacers, just do more of the same. More Paul George — he had a triple-double and led you to 109 points in Game 1. You know if the Pacers reach triple digits the Hawks are in trouble. Most of all, be physical until the Hawks show they can handle it. Then be more physical.
Do that, and this game will not be boring.