No NBA team has ever come back from a 3-0 deficit. That’s the fate that faces the Atlanta Hawks if they lose this game.
The Indiana Pacers come to Atlanta having won the previous two games with offensive dominance. Paul George has been spectacular, scoring 20 plus in each game, while playing 83 of a possible 96 minutes. Indiana’s usually great defense, however, has not been as strong so far; Atlanta is shooting almost 50% from the field and 40% from the line, both better marks than the Pacers.
Indiana, however, has been marching through the lane and getting to the free throw line, something the Hawks have not been able to do. For Atlanta to win this game three, they will have to change that.
How? Well, the Hawks have tried multiple defenders on Paul George already. Kyle Korver didn’t exactly work. Devin Harris and DeShawn Stevenson did better, but George was still able to tear the Hawks about.
It is time for Josh Smith’s turn.
Larry Drew has elected to go big for game three, starting Johan Petro at center, moving Smith to the small forward position. Smoove may be hobbled a bit by an ankle injury, but he’s still the best overall defender Atlanta has. According to mySynergySports, Smith is giving up only 0.67 points per possession in isolation, good enough for 43rd in the league. (which is extremely good, by the way) Considering that Smith has already had turns guarding LeBron James, DeMarcus Cousins, and Monta Ellis, I don’t think Josh will balk at the challenges that Paul George will bring.
Other keys for the Hawks? Running the offense through Al Horford. Now matched up against David West, Horford should be able to work more down low than he was able to against Roy Hibbert. He should still have a good speed advantage, but Coach Drew should attempt to get his star big man established down low early.
One final key: please Larry, sub Ivan in for Petro as soon as you can. Please…