Game-by-Game Predictions for the Indiana Pacers' Series with the Atlanta Hawks

Poch de la RosaContributor IIIApril 19, 2013

Game-by-Game Predictions for the Indiana Pacers' Series with the Atlanta Hawks

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    It's the Indiana Pacers against the Atlanta Hawks in the first round of the 2012-13 NBA Playoffs.

    Third seed vs. the sixth seed.

    Paul George vs. Josh Smith.

    Frank Vogel vs. Larry Drew.

    Nap Town vs. the ATL.

    Take your pick.

    The last time these two franchises met in the playoffs was in the 1995-96 season, the era of Reggie Miller, the Davis Boys (Antonio and Dale) and Rik Smits. That season's Hawks team had Mookie Blaylock, Stacey Augmon and Steve Smith.

    Miller was involved in a collision during a regular season home game against the Detroit Pistons on April 13, 1996 that fractured his eye socket, forcing him to miss the first four games of the first round series. Although he returned to play in Game 5 against the Hawks and score 29 points wearing a pair of goggles, the team lost, 89-87.

    Series over. Hawks win, 3-2. 

    After 18 seasons, will the Indiana Pacers finally have a chance to avenge this loss?

    The two teams split their four regular season games in 2012-13the Hawks won the first two games of the series at home by an average margin of six while the Pacers evened the score by winning the next two at home by an average of 8.5 points. 

    Additionally, scoring reached triple digits in three of the four games. However, playoff basketball is an entirely different story. Expect no easy shots and more bruising plays from both teams in this series.

Game 1: Pacers 101, Hawks 89

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    Paul George had a sub-par month in March, averaging only 12.8 points per game on a measly 32 percent shooting clip.  

    Game 1 is his coming-out party. 

    George scores a team-high 27 points with four triples, eight boards and three steals in Indiana's 12-point victory in Game 1. 

    Zaza Pachulia, with his 28 rebounds in the teams' first two regular season meetings, was a huge thorn on the Pacers' side.

    Without him, Indiana asserts its mastery on the boards by snagging 47 to Atlanta's 42. Hibbert sputters offensively, finishing with only five points on two-of-nine shooting. He atones for this by snagging 12 boards and blocking two shots. 

    Hawks come out limping with nobody scoring more than 20. Horford and Teague each tally 16 points in the loss. 

    As a unit, the Pacers are finally able to wake up from their defensive slumber, allowing an average of 102.6 points per game in their last five regular season losses. 

    The Atlanta Hawks finish with just 89 points. 

    Pacers 1, Hawks 0. 

Game 2: Pacers 93, Hawks 91

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    Larry Drew and company go back to the drawing board. Game Two is much closer.

    The Pacers establish an 11-point lead in the first half only to see it dissipate in the second. Josh Smith is a man possessed: 23 points, nine boards and five blocks. He even swats one of Hibbert's shot attempts on a double team.

    This doesn't deter Hibbert, who goes on to finish with 19 points, 11 rebounds and two blocks. If he's going to play the way he has been, the Pacers are a tough team to beat.

    The teams continue an epic see-saw battle in the fourth quarter. Kyle Korver knocks down three triples during a four-minute span to give the Hawks a four-point lead.

    However, as he has done countless times before, David West bails out Indiana with 10 points in the last quarter. The most important of these comes from a fadeaway jumper from right quarter court with 12 seconds to play.

    On the ensuing play, Korver feeds the ball down low to Horford who swings it back out to Jeff Teague. He launches a triple that rattles in and out. 

    Indiana successfully protects home-court advantage. 

    Pacers 2, Hawks 0. 

Game 3: Hawks 104, Pacers 92

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    Jeff Teague wants to shake off the sting of the last-second missed triple in Game 2 that would have notched the series at one win apiece. 

    Mission accomplished. 

    Teague scores a game-high 27 points to go along with eight assists in Atlanta's Game 3 victory. Al Horford, who was the most consistent Hawk in the four regular season games against the Pacers, notches 18 points and nine boards in a solid supporting role. 

    In addition, the Hawks rely on great ball movement to throw off the Pacers' defense. In its two wins against Indiana in the regular season, Atlanta averaged six more assists than its counterpart. Tonight, they pile up on the assists with 26 in all. 

    On the other hand, the Pacers go back to their lethargic ways on offense, struggling in the assists department and coughing up just 16. George Hill leads the Pacers with four. 

    Indiana also turns the ball over 20 times with Paul George tallying five in spite of his 21 points. Roy Hibbert, who asserted his might down low in Game 2, struggles all night long. He finishes with just six points and seven rebounds. 

    The Pacers squad that struggled offensively its last six regular season games which resulted in five losses, showed up tonight. 

    Pacers 2, Hawks 1. 

Game 4: Pacers 109, Hawks 103

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    Lance Stephenson is due for a breakout playoff game in his young career. 

    This is exactly what happens in Game 4. 

    Stephenson is a whirling dirvish on both ends of the court, finishing with 19 points, six rebounds, six assists and three steals in 30 minutes of action. His energy and enthusiasm was something the Pacers desperately needed, who were coming off of a lackadaisical effort in Game 3.

    Hibbert is one of the key beneficiaries of Stephenson's vibe. He asserts himself once again with 15 points, 16 rebounds and three blocks to take advantage of his undersized counterpart Horford and the absence of Zaza Pachulia.

    The Hawks also felt the absence of Louis Williams in this one. The Pacers score a series-high 109 points which include eight three-pointers. Paul George gets credit for five of these to go along with his team-leading 23 points.

    In their two regular-season victories against the Hawks, the Pacers made at least eight three-point shots. 

    Tonight, in a playoff game where pride and momentum are at stake, that factor made all the difference. 

    Horford continues to be consistent with 21 points and 9 rebounds. This all goes for naught as the Pacers continue their dominance on the boards, 49-40.

    Pacers 3, Hawks 1.  

Game 5: Pacers 98, Hawks 95

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    Once again, the question begs to be asked: Will the real Roy Hibbert please show up?

    Hibbert is the X-factor in this series. The Hawks really do not have anybody who can match up toe-to-toe with him. Part of the reason why the Pacers beat the Hawks twice in the regular season was because of Hibbert's stellar play: he averaged 14.5 points, 10.5 rebounds and three blocks in those contests. 

    He doesn't disappoint in Game 5. 

    Hibbert finishes with 21 points, 12 rebounds and four blocks while altering countless others in the series-clinching victory. The Pacers once again blow a double-digit lead in the second half, having to fend off a furious Atlanta rally behind Teague and Korver who combine for eight triples. 

    The Hawks play with a sense of urgency notwithstanding the absence of two key players in Pachulia and Williams. They force Paul George into committing five turnovers.

    Pacers 94, Hawks 93. Fifty-four seconds left to play

    With a chance to take the lead, Atlanta turns the ball over on an errant pass from Teague to Horford. The ball lands in the hands of George Hill who knocks down four clinching free throws to seal the deal.

    Teague puts on a show in his hometown of Indianapolis and finishes with 23. David West finishes with 20 points and 10 boards for the Pacers.

    Pacers win the series against the Hawks in five games.