Atlanta Hawks vs. Indiana Pacers: Postgame Grades and Analysis
In a clash between two of the Eastern Conference's better defensive teams, it was the Indiana Pacers who overcame the Atlanta Hawks by a score of 107-90 to take a 1-0 series lead.
Paul George led the way with 23 points, 12 assists and 11 rebounds, tallying his first career postseason triple-double. Despite shooting 50 percent from the field, the Hawks simply had no answer for George's balanced attack.
It doesn't hurt that all five Pacers starters were in double figures.
Jeff Teague attempted to lead a comeback, but his 21 points and seven assists just weren't enough for Atlanta to pull out the win. With a fierce fourth quarter run to close out the game, Indiana moved one step closer to their second consecutive Eastern Conference semifinals appearance.
It's an uphill battle from here for the Hawks.
Jeff Teague, Atlanta Hawks: A
Jeff Teague is rapidly developing into one of the better point guards in the NBA. From his ability to play the angles when attacking the basket to his explosive athleticism on defense, Teague is what every team's fanbase is claiming they possess.
A player on the rise to elite.
Against the Indiana Pacers' vaunted defense, Teague put those abilities on display by attacking the basket with poise and timing. He consistently came off of screens, paused while his defender committed and then pushed in the opposite direction.
That's the sign of a mentally developed point guard.
While Teague's playmaking opportunities were limited by Josh Smith's on-ball offensive style, his efficiency was not. Teague dropped in jump shots, finished around the basket and made plays defensively all day long.
In 37 minutes, Teague finished with 21 points, seven assists, one rebound and a steal, with 7-of-14 shooting from the floor and 2-of-2 from beyond the arc.
George Hill, Indiana Pacers: A+
There's something about the NBA playoffs that brings the best out of George Hill. For the second consecutive season, Hill put on a brilliant performance to help will his team to a victory.
No matter where he was shooting from, Hill found a way to make it fall.
While Paul George managed to come up with a triple-double, you could make the case that Hill was the key to this victory. While the rest of the team shot rather inconsistently, Hill stepped up with huge three-pointers and an efficient scoring night.
Going for 18 points on 7-of-10 shooting from the floor and 3-of-4 from beyond the arc is a sign of that scoring brilliance.
While Hill's defense on Jeff Teague wasn't as efficient, he matched Teague at every turn offensively. That's all you can ask of Hill, as the Pacers offense relied heavily upon free-throw shooting Sunday.
Without Hill's shooting, you're looking at a Game 1 loss for Indiana.
Devin Harris, Atlanta Hawks: C
Devin Harris is a wildly improved defender who held his own against a tough matchup in Lance Stephenson. Although Harris did fall victim to loose-ball foul calls, he maintained his positioning against one of the most active off-guards in the league.
That alone is praise worthy.
While Stephenson may have come to life during the fourth quarter, Harris kept him in check during the first three. This came with eight points and two steals for Harris, who continues to perform at an adequate level for an out-of-position role player.
With that being said, going 0-of-3 from the free-throw line when your team only gets 12 attempts is beyond detrimental.
Lance Stephenson, Indiana Pacers: A-
Lance Stephenson continued his monumental rise, playing aggressive offense and disruptive defense. From his first-half dunk in traffic to his uncanny ability to play the passing lanes, Stephenson seemed to be everywhere.
A primary example is how Stephenson missed a free throw and then pressured the primary ball-handler, thus making big man Al Horford take the ball up court.
For the game, Stephenson finished with 13 points, five rebounds, four assists, three steals and a block. While it took a while for Stephenson's shot to fall, he anchored the Pacers' fourth quarter run that put this game away.
It was more of the well-rounded same from the 22-year-old off-guard.
Kyle Korver, Atlanta Hawks: D
It's no secret that Kyle Korver's reason for success is his elite ability to shoot the three-ball. The NBA's record holder for three-point field-goal percentage in one season is as dominant as they come with the outside shot, and Atlanta needed that today.
Unfortunately, they didn't receive it.
Korver was smothered by All-Star forward Paul George, thus failing to find openings in the defense as he moved off-ball. To make matters worse, Korver converted just 1-of-4 when he did manage to get his shot off from three.
It certainly doesn't help his case that George had a triple-double.
Paul George, Indiana Pacers: A+
After two dismal postseason performances in 2011 and 2012, Paul George had a lot to prove in 2013. While this is only one game, it's impossible for George to have started any better than he did in Game 1 against Atlanta.
How does a triple-double sound to you?
George finished Game 1 with 23 points, 12 assists, 11 rebounds, a steal and a block. He also shot 17-of-18 from the free-throw line, thus establishing his uncanny ability to enter the paint and draw contact.
That's the perfect way to make up for a 3-of-13 shooting performance from the field and going 0-of-5 from beyond the arc.
With that being said, George's greatest feat was his ability to shut down Kyle Korver. The Hawks thrive on ball movement and three-point shooting, so containing Korver had to be mission No. 1.
George held the sharpshooter to 1-of-4 shooting from beyond the arc and 2-of-7 from the field.
Josh Smith, Atlanta Hawks: B
Josh Smith was up to his usual tricks, mixing a low-post attack with an on-ball style of perimeter play. Unfortunately for the Hawks, that just wasn't enough to will their offense to anything close to a sufficient output.
Fifteen points, eight rebounds and five assists may look pretty, but this one was rough for Smith.
Even when J-Smoove began to get it going, he was stifled inside by David West. This is evident in the fact that Smith failed to grab a single offensive rebound after averaging 1.8 during the regular season.
Fortunately, Smith's playmaking and elite athleticism was enough to keep Atlanta in it. When the closing minutes came around, however, Smith simply couldn't counter Indiana's offensive onslaught.
Smith will need to look like Paul George if the Hawks are to win Game 2.
David West, Indiana Pacers: A
Contrary to popular belief, the Indiana Pacers closer has not been Paul George in 2012-13. Instead, it's power forward David West who led the Pacers in clutch field goals, making 23 more than George and shooting 12.2 percent better during such situations (via Basketball-Reference).
That's just a fun fact for everyone to know, as the Pacers didn't need West to step up in the clutch in this comfortable win.
With that being said, West was magnificent throughout this game, whether on offense, defense or just crashing the boards. He kept Josh Smith in check, made a strong majority of the shots he attempted and came up with rebounds on both ends of the floor.
That includes a powerful putback after Roy Hibbert air-balled a hook shot during the first half.
For the game, West finished with 13 points, nine rebounds and two assists. He also prevented a borderline All-Star from finding his rhythm.
That's called a successful outing.
Al Horford, Atlanta Hawks: B-
This was a frustrating game for Al Horford, as he performed well offensively but was unable to gain support because of his man. Roy Hibbert closed off the paint, and even as Horford spaced the floor with his jump shooting, it just wasn't enough.
Horford finished with 14 points, six rebounds, three assists, a block and a steal. He did so while shooting 7-of-12 from the field and committing just two turnovers and three personal fouls.
When your assignment grabs six offensive rebounds, however, there's reason for blame to head your way.
Horford played well, but that isn't going to be enough if Atlanta is to overcome Indiana's elite big men. He allowed Hibbert to draw double-teams instead of being able to force him out individually, thus opening the gate for slashing scorers.
It's on Horford to step up in a greater capacity during Game 2.
Roy Hibbert, Indiana Pacers: A-
Roy Hibbert commanded attention on the low block throughout the duration of his game, thus commanding attention from help-side defenders. Even when Hibbert would miss shots, this would create open lanes for teammates to crash the offensive boards.
That's the sign of a player whose impact ranges well beyond the stat sheet.
Hibbert finished with 16 points, eight rebounds, two blocks and a steal on 7-of-17 shooting from the field. While the percentages are concerning, Hibbert managed to collect six offensive rebounds and open everything up for the rest of his team offensively.
Sometimes presence is more valuable than production.
Ivan Johnson, Atlanta Hawks: B-
Ivan Johnson could not have done anything more than he put forth during the Atlanta Hawks' Game 1 loss. Not only did he crash the offensive glass with power and focus, but Johnson scored in a variety of ways—including a surprising fade-away jump shot during the closing minutes of the third quarter.
In 23 minutes of action, Johnson managed to tally 10 points, five rebounds (three offensive boards), one block and a steal. He did so while shooting 5-of-8 from the floor and providing energy on both ends.
Unfortunately, Johnson also committed three turnovers and struggled to keep his assignment off of the offensive glass—it was a collective failure by Atlanta today.
Tyler Hansbrough, Indiana Pacers: B+
Tyler Hansbrough was all about energy during this game, as body control and fundamental prowess were thrown to the wind. Hansbrough threw his body around with reckless abandon and made plays on every ball that came his way.
That includes a steal that led to an unassisted transition dunk during the first half and five offensive rebounds in 17 minutes.
Hansbrough may not have seen extensive run, but he managed to contribute in every phase of the game. Whether he was making passes out of the high post or coming up with steals along the perimeter, Hansbrough's energy was the key.
This was a team win, but Hansbrough's first-half performance was the push Indiana needed to run away with this one.
Atlanta Hawks: B
They weren't flawless, but the Atlanta Hawks' second unit came in and performed at an impressive level. They made three of the team's seven three-point field goals, kept the Hawks within a reasonable distance and capitalized on opportunities to chip into the lead.
Going 11-of-19 from the floor as a unit is a great way to make your mark.
Shelvin Mack struggled from the field, but he played well against George Hill for the most part. While Hill did manage to get hot late, Mack was able to pace the offense as Atlanta gained on the Pacers.
Between his three and DeShawn Stevenson's two from beyond the arc, the Hawks bench made an impact.
With that being said, Stevenson and Mack were both guilty of losing position on their men defensively. This resulted in easy baskets in the paint and open jump shots.
It wasn't perfect, but Atlanta's second unit played well.
Indiana Pacers: C+
Outside of sixth man Tyler Hansbrough, this was a disappointing showing by the Indiana Pacers bench. They routinely threw ill-advised shots up and rarely converted their attempts.
As a collective unit, the Pacers bench combined to shoot 7-of-18 from the floor.
Gerald Green made three three-point field goals, which certainly helps the Pacers' cause. Unfortunately, Green also air-balled a wide-open jump shot off of a beautiful feed and thus temporarily stunted Indiana's momentum.
Jeff Pendergraph picked up five rebounds in 14 minutes, but he also shot 1-of-5 and committed three fouls that could've been costly if Atlanta made their free throws.
It wasn't disastrous, as the Pacers won, but Indiana will need a better showing from their bench moving forward. With D.J. Augustin failing to attempt a single field goal, there's a starting point to build off of already.
Indiana can go far, but they'll need depth to do so.