RECAP: Pacers 100, Hawks 94

Daniel Christian —  March 26, 2013


IND(44-27) 100 – 94 (39-32) ATL

Key Performers:
J. Smith (ATL): 20 pts, 3 reb, 4 ast, 4 stl, 2 blk
R. Hibbert (IND): 17 pts, 13 reb, 3 blk

Coming off an important win over the Milwaukee Bucks last Sunday, Atlanta failed to capitalize on any positive momentum and fell flat against the Pacers on Monday night. It was a lethargic effort from the Hawks, who were plagued by a lack of activity from the starters apart from Josh Smith. Teague struggled from the field and failed to successfully initiate any sort of offense, and that reflected in Horford’s offensive production, as he only shot 6-15 on the night. More on player specificities later, but the energy, as I’m sure Larry Drew would like to say, was not there– the energy (cut to LD nodding vigorously)– was lacking. Obviously it isn’t easy working in the paint against Roy Hibbert, one of the league’s premier defensive centers, and defending the Gerald Green renaissance isn’t any fun either, but the Hawks failed to pick up what would have been an impressive win in an important stretch of the season.

Reaction Grades: [assessed 0-10]

Josh Smith: Smith played the best of any Atlanta player on Monday night, and one thing that is worth mentioning, whether it’s obvious or not, is that Smoove is so much better when he’s moving towards the hoop. Any shot in which his body or his motion is carrying him in a direction closer to the rim is usually a good Josh Smith shot. That was clearly evidenced by the work he did on Paul George in the post. Smith, who is a left handed player, frequently posted George while showing an intent to attack with a left-handed hook (a shot for which he has an affinity). Instead, however, Smith backed George down, showed the ball left, and then swerved and turned his body right for a right-handed shot around the hoop. The first three times he did this the Indiana help was late and he scored rather easily. Now for his jumpers: one was at the end of the shot clock and the other was a play in which the two and the three came off screens to the top of the key. This demonstrates the issue with Smith at the three offensively in Drew’s system because it flushes him out to the perimeter where he can jack in-rhythm or out-of-rhythm jumpers. Even though his 18-footer was in-rhythm on Monday night, you knew it was a bad shot. Still– is anyone complaining about Smith? He went 7-10 from the field. 8/10

Al Horford: At this point we’re all so used to 20-10 games from Al that anything less seems disappointing. It seems as if Hibbert’s defense had an effect on Horford early, and that effect perpetuated itself throughout the game. Hibbert contested six of Horford’s 13 shots, and of those six Horford only made one. He had much more success backing down/working against Tyler Hansbrough and Jeff Pendergraph. The Hawks have recently used a crossing screen with a guard on one block and Horford on the other to allow Al an easy seal-and-post right next to the hoop. They ran that twice against Indiana, once with Jones setting the screen, the other time with Korver. It works. 6/10

Johan Petro: He’s usually ineffective offensively because he’s not great with setting picks/scoring off picks due to his mobility (or lack thereof). His midrange shooting is somewhere between poor and inconsistent. He can be a spatial liability at times, but on occasion his hustle and defensive activity make up for that. That wasn’t the case on Monday as he failed to establish any sort of interior defensive presence. He did, however, have 4 offensive rebounds that all required a whole bunch of tipping and tapping. 4/10

Dahntay Jones: He kicked things off for Atlanta with a three-pointer in the opening minutes, but he didn’t score the rest of the night. He only played 12 minutes, so not too much to discuss here. 3/10

Jeff Teague: The Indiana defense did an exceptional job on Teague, but he missed his fair share of open looks. His outside shot was off the mark, but all 5 of his attempted layups were challenged by Hibbert, and as we know, that generally has a distinct correlation with low field goal percentages. On the other hand, his penetration didn’t seem to open the offense up as much as it usually does. That probably has something to do with Indiana’s number one ranked defense. 4/10

Kyle Korver: He shot the three well, as always (the streak continues! Yay!), but he was abused by Gerald Green in the second half. Green was matched up with Korver early and often, and it was his ability to score over and around Kyle that enabled his continued second half dominance. The spatial implications of Korver to this offense cannot be understated, however. He set Horford up on the block with a screen and he made more than a few nice entry passes. 5/10

Ivan Johnson: We’ve talked about Hibbert’s defensive impact, but when the Hawks finally cut into that Indiana lead, it was Ivan Johnson who scored on Hibbert twice in the game’s final minute. His incessant motor always provides high entertainment, but it’s even more beautiful when that motor lends itself to spectacular basketball. He had 4 steals and used five of his six fouls– seems like the necessary aggression in coming back from a deficit larger than 20 points. His four turnovers weigh his grade down just a tad. 5/10

Anthony Tolliver: Tolliver can be an instrumental player in winning games, but he can also be ineffective. He’s a hit or miss player and his production varies from game-to-game. Monday night’s game was there to even out his great play against Milwaukee. 2/10

John Jenkins: He was a key part of Atlanta’s comeback as he connected on an elbow jumper and pump-faked the defense out of his way for an open layup. His two free throws that cut the Indiana lead to four and had them temporarily sweating what would have been an embarrassing loss. 5/10

Shelvin Mack: He got hot with some transition threes and found his teammates often in what was an impressive fourth quarter. Mack ran the offense throughout the fourth quarter and dictated its flow very well. Atlanta was prosperous with him at the helm, and he was responsible for finally cutting Indiana’s lead to single digits. 6/10

Mike Scott: He was active on the glass and played a strong game in his 12 minutes of action. 4/10

DeShawn Stevenson: He made three ridiculous, inefficient shots in an awesome, DeShawn Stevenson only type of way during Atlanta’s comeback. His energy was huge and his defensive intensity, along with streaky shooting, really helped Atlanta back into the game. Too bad they couldn’t close. 5/10

Larry Drew: The starters were definitely struggling, so he obviously had nothing to lose going to his bench to start the fourth quarter– but oh did the bench respond. Mack, Jenkins, Stevenson, Johnson, and Scott all contributed and pushed the Hawks back into this game even though it was over long before the fourth quarter started. Drew didn’t have much of an answer for Indiana’s defense, but who does? It’s ranked number one for a reason. The most interesting thing I saw was a play that I don’t remember seeing before this, although Atlanta’s probably run it, I just didn’t pick up on it. It’s another high-low set that starts with a triangle of Teague above the key, Horford in the high post, and Smith on the wing. Teague passes to Smith, goes and sets a screen on Smith’s man while Horford flashes to where Teague was, and then Smith runs off the screen and Horford hits him next to the basket. Obviously that’s tough to picture without video assistance, so I’ll probably do a post to breakdown the play later, but just thought that was worth noting and maybe we’ll see more of it soon. 6/10

The opposition: Their defense really is as strong as advertised and Hibbert should most definitely be considered for Defensive Player of the Year. Obviously it’s tough for the Hawks to win when Gerald Green explodes in the third quarter and pushes the game out of reach, but it is what it is. They outplayed Atlanta’s starters the entire time they were on the floor, and they looked good doing it. 8/10


Next: Atlanta @ Toronto, Wednesday, March 27th

Daniel Christian