In Games 1 and 2, the Hawks were shredded defensively. They gave up an average of 110 points per game and were hardly competitive. After their dismal performances on the road, some people were thinking that the Pacers just might sweep the series.
The Hawks put those talks to bed with an impressive performance in Game 3.
The contest was a complete turnaround from the first two games of the series. The Hawks held the Pacers to 27 percent shooting from the field, including only 16 percent from three-point range. The 69 points scored by the Pacers were their lowest offensive output since 2006.
The big change for the Hawks came in an adjustment to the starting lineup. Johan Petro was inserted into the starting lineup while Kyle Korver was relegated to coming off the bench. Although Petro only played 14 minutes and Korver still logged more playing time, sometimes a small change can make a big difference.
The Hawks' defensive prowess in Game 3 was especially effective against Indiana’s backcourt. Josh Smith and Jeff Teague effectively shut down the Pacers’ Paul George and George Hill.
George averaged 25 points per game over the first two games of the series but was held to 16 points and shot 4-of-11 from the field in Game 3.
Hill also had success against the suspect Atlanta defense in the first two games by averaging 20 points per contest, but he struggled in Game 3. Teague held Hill in check with three points on 1-of-8 shooting.
In Game 4, the Hawks were challenged by the Pacers, but were able to step up defensively when it mattered to earn the win.
In Game 5, Atlanta returned to its defensive ways of early in the series. The Hawks gave up 106 points and allowed the Pacers to shoot 51 percent from the field.
Although the Hawks defense played well in a sloppy Game 6, it was not enough to stave off elimination.
The breakdown of this series is very simple. When the Hawks were able to play well defensively, they won. But when their defense struggled, they had no chance against Indiana.