Only the Houston Rockets took more threes than the Atlanta Hawks per game this season (25.8), so the Pacers had to know what was coming in Game 1, especially with Paul Millsap at the four and Pero Antic starting at center — spread the floor and launch threes.
Indiana never adjusted for it — Atlanta launched 30 of them in Game 1 (hitting 11, not great but solid), plus that spacing opened the floor up for Jeff Teague to do whatever he wanted (George Hill seemed to try to funnel him into help, except the help had to be guarding guys at the arc). On top of that, Indiana never made Atlanta pay the price inside at the other end — just 38 points in the paint.
Roy Hibbert remains emblematic of the Pacers problems. He had 8 points on 9 shots, plus 8 rebounds in nearly 30 minutes of court time. He had no blocks… but Kyle Korver blocked him. Twice. That’ s simply not good enough.
“I’m gonna keep working at it,” Hibbert said dourly after the game, his head down, his words sparse. “I’m gonna come in and keep doing what I do in practice, work on my hook and get in position down low. Hopefully when I’m called upon I can do it consistently….
“We just have to get certain guys under control as a team,” Hibbert said. “I’m sure we’ll look over film. I’m the main culprit in terms of being the weak link on defense because they have a spread-five lineup. I guess we’ll have to adjust.”
The playoffs are all about match ups and Atlanta’s spread offense is admittedly a tough one for the Pacers. Sure, the Pacers from the first half of the season would have just physically steamrolled this Atlanta team anyway, punishing them inside on offense, moving Paul George on to Teague earlier and being physical with him. This Pacers team didn’t know how to do that. Frank Vogel deserves some criticism for being slow to adjust.
There is a lot of series left and the Pacers are by far the more talented team. On paper. They should adjust, they should pound the Hawks inside on offense and harass them at the arc on defense in Game 2.
The pre All-Star break Hawks would have (this isn’t a Bynum and Granger thing, the Pacers’ slide started before those moves). The pre All-Star break Hibbert would have taken this performance personally and made everyone pay next time out. We’ll see if that Hibbert is still in there.
Hibbert is a big key if Indy is going to win this series. At least he knows it. Now we’ll see what he does about it.