[tps_header](1) Indiana Pacers (56-26) vs. (8) Atlanta Hawks (38-44)[/tps_header]
Season series: 2-2 split
A rematch from last year’s opening round, Atlanta is probably the last team the Pacers want to see in the first round, despite a sub .500 record. The Pacers have struggled against the Hawks, as their smaller lineup has given Indiana fits over the past few seasons. Not only did the two teams split the season series this year, but the Pacers are a woeful 2-13 in Phillips Arena since the 2007-2008 season.
Stats to Remember:
ATL – 36.3 percent 3-point percentage in regular season – 40.6 percent 3-point percentage vs. Pacers
IND – Allowed 96.7 points per game in regular season – Allowed 93.0 ppg vs. Hawks
Players to Watch:
Atlanta: Jeff Teague – The Hawks are one of the best teams at moving the ball in the NBA and a lot of that stems from Teague’s distribution as the point guard. The Indianapolis native will have his way with Pacers guard George Hill on the offensive end, which benefits Atlanta.
Indiana: Lance Stephenson – Indiana just plays better when Stephenson works as the car battery for the team. He leads the league in triple-doubles (five) this season and has the capability to be a complete game-changer. In an up-tempo series, Stephenson needs to direct traffic and be a threat to score and pass the ball.
Atlanta poses an interesting matchup for Indiana and the Hawks should be able to get the Pacers out of their comfort zone at times throughout the series. Roy Hibbert may struggle defensively as he’s had trouble defending guys like Paul Millsap and Pero Antic, who pose a threat away from the basket. There will be some tight games, but the Pacers experience and Hawks lack of leadership will see Indiana through to the second round.
Indiana in five games.