Saturday, April 19, 2014 at 7:00 PM ET at Bankers Life Fieldhouse

Game Preview: Pacers vs Hawks, Game 1

Pacers.com Staff | April 17, 2014

The Gold Out Returns

The Pacers have announced all fans in attendance for Game 1 of the First Round matchup against the Atlanta Hawks will receive a free gold T-shirt upon arrival to their seats. The T-shirt will feature the Playoff theme of Blue Collar Gold Swagger. Gold Out Returns »

Matchup

The Indiana Pacers are in the postseason for the fourth consecutive season and for the second year in a row, they open the playoffs against the Atlanta Hawks. Already, the Pacers have checked off two of their goals: winning their sixth Central Division title and earning the top seed in the Eastern Conference.

A lot has been made of their play over the final two months, going 16-14 after the All-Star break in mid-February. That can be thrown out and records reset to 0-0. However, as they open against the Hawks Saturday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, what’s most important is that the Pacers remember what got them in this position in the first place: defense, unselfish play, togetherness, and playing with an edge.

It’s playoff time, which brings with it a whole new level of focus and intensity. Pacers assistants began preparing for this series early in the week. Following the team’s season finale in Orlando on Wednesday, where they earned their 56th win of the season, the Pacers had detail-oriented practices focusing on defense and then offense on Thursday and Friday, respectively. Having a couple days of team preparation allows for them to really dive into player tendencies to grab a firm grasp on the opponent.

Indiana doesn’t have to look far for added motivation. The Hawks came into the Fieldhouse on April 6 and laid a beating on a team that had the starters pulled six minutes into the game and fell behind by 32 points in the first half.

Atlanta’s attack first begins with point guard Jeff Teague, out of Pike High School. In his fifth season as a Hawk, Teague has elevated his game and is being shaped into a player comparable to Tony Parker – who was coached by Hawks first-year head coach Mike Budenholzer in San Antonio –, Frank Vogel believes.

Teague is the “head of the snake,” as Vogel likes to put it. He’s dangerous in the open court and leads the team in assists, with almost seven per game. The Pacers have to make a concerted effort to contain Teague and keep out of the paint. Meantime, the Pacers also need their point guard, George Hill, to play aggressively. Though he’s the fourth option on offense with other starters, they’re a much better team when he’s locked in and looking for holes in the defense.

Haws rookie big man, Pero Antic, has received a considerable amount of focus in the last few days, and for good reason. He’s averaging 17 points and five rebounds in two games against the Pacers this season. The 6-foot-11, 260-pound center causes problems for the Pacers because he’s a stretch-5, meaning he doesn’t just linger around the basket. He’s a spread-5 and attempts more than three 3-point attempts per game.

No. 1, Pacers center Roy Hibbert must raise his level of performance. His slump is well documented; he’s shooting 27 percent over the last 10 games, and averaging 6.8 points along with 3.7 rebounds per game. Those must rise, particularly his rebounding percentage. His matchup with Antic will draw him out of the paint and away from the rim more than he’d like, so Indiana must remain in constant communication, help along the perimeter and be in their gaps. The Hawks have averaged 10.3 3-point field goals in four meetings this season.

Typically in the playoffs, teams shorten their lineups. Because of Atlanta’s unique style of play, Frank Vogel said his rotation would vary night by night and with the flow of the games.

Indiana does have a formula for home success, finishing a league-best 35-6 during the regular season. Atlanta was one of two teams — the other being the Spurs — who beat the Pacers by double digits in Indy. The Hawks, meanwhile, enter Saturday’s nationally televised contest 14-27 on the road.

It’s now playoff time, and their season will be defined by their postseason success. In each of the last three years, they’ve made it one round further. The Pacers say their “togetherness” is the best it has been all season long and they are eager to get after this best-of-seven series.

Probable Starters

George Hill

George Hill

Lance Stephenson

Lance Stephenson

Paul George

Paul George

David West

David West

Roy Hibbert

Roy Hibbert

Jeff Teague

Jeff Teague

Kyle Korver

Kyle Korver

DeMarre Carroll

DeMarre Carroll

Paul Millsap

Paul Millsap

Pero Antic

Pero Antic

Injury Update

Pacers: Andrew Bynum (out, sore right knee)
Hawks: Gustavo Ayon (right shoulder surgery), Al Horford (out, right pectoral muscle surgery), John Jenkins (out, lower back surgery)

Quotable

“The whole defensive game plan is keeping (Jeff Teague) out of the paint; it’s the toughest challenge we’re going to have.” – Frank Vogel

“We have a great respect for how they play. Their record is more indicative of the injuries they’ve had as much as anything because the guys they have in uniform have proven over the last few weeks to play at as high as level of most teams that are going into the playoffs. All we got to do is look at our last game here to see what they’re capable of.” – Frank Vogel on Atlanta

“Certainly. I know it’s on my mind. I remember what they did to us and that can’t be accepted.” – Paul George on their last meeting.

“Their style of play. They play an up-tempo game, they’re constantly in attack mode, their guards find a way to get into the paint. We just got to do a great job of containment with their guys and their ability to shoot the ball.” – Paul George on Atlanta

“I am just going to have to adjust and move my feet. I have played against these guys and haven’t had the best games against them, but it is the playoffs so it is time to change things up. It is exciting to move on to the new part of the season.” – Roy Hibbert on guarding Pero Antic

“They have a big guy that can shoot and guards that can penetrate. They play hard. … I’m used to guard bigs in the paint so with 3-point shooters, … you can’t roam as much so it’s a different feel.” – Roy Hibbert

“This is the best time of the year. Every game is on TV and every game is about business. There's no joking around. Everybody is watching.” – Lance Stephenson

Noteworthy

Last Meeting

April 6: The Pacers trailed by 22 points after the first quarter and tallied a franchise-low 23 in the first half in a 107-88 stomping by the Hawks at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Coach Frank Vogel pulled all five starters six minutes into the game as they fell behind 17-3. Atlanta shot 56 percent from the floor and had five players reach double figures.

Hawks center Pero Antic was off the charts, finishing with a career-high 18 points on 7-of-8 shooting. Paul Millsap had 17 points and 11 rebounds while Shelvin Mack added 13. Paul George led the Pacers with 18 points, seven rebounds and six steals, which equaled his career-high. Roy Hibbert had one turnover in nine minutes, sitting out the second half because of both his play and a poor matchup.

Broadcast Information | Find Local Listings »

TV: ESPN – Mark Jones (play-by-play), Doris Burke (analyst), Israel Gutierrez (reporter)
NOTE: FOX Sports Indiana will air a postgame show immediately following the conclusion of Game 1, hosted by Chris Denari, Quinn Buckner, and Brooke Olzendam.
Radio: FM 107.5/AM 1070 The Fan, Pacers Radio Network – Mark Boyle (play-by-play), Slick Leonard (analyst), Kevin Lee (sideline reporter/host)

Ticket Information

Limited seats remain for Game 1 and future first round home games. Find Tickets »

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