Game 1 – Sunday, April 21, Atlanta at Indiana, 1 p.m., TNT
Game 2 – Wednesday, April 24, Atlanta at Indiana, 7:30 p.m., NBATV
Game 3 – Saturday, April 27, Indiana at Atlanta, 7 p.m., ESPN
Game 4 – Monday, April 29, Indiana at Atlanta, TBD
Game 5* – Wednesday, May 1, Atlanta at Indiana, TBD
Game 6* – Friday, May 3, Indiana at Atlanta, TBD
Game 7* – Sunday, May 5, Atlanta at Indiana, TBD
Indiana Pacers (49-32, Central Division Champions) vs Atlanta Hawks (44-38, second in Southeast Division)
Season Series: Split 2-2
November 7, 2012 (89-86 for Atlanta)
December 29, 2012 (109-100 for Atlanta)
February 5, 2013 (114-103 for Indiana)
March 25, 2013 (100-94 for Indiana)
Points: Pacers – Paul George (17.4), Josh Smith (17.5)
Rebounds: Pacers – Roy Hibbert (8.3), Al Horford (10.2)
Assists: Pacers – George Hill (4.7), Jeff Teague (7.2)
The Atlanta Hawks have qualified for the postseason each of the past six years, but have yet to reach the Eastern Conference finals.
How the Indiana Pacers will win this series
Defense wins championships, and defense will win this series for the Pacers. Indiana is second in the NBA in opponents points per game (90.7), first in opponents shooting percentage (42%), and first in opponents three-point shooting percentage (32%). Opponents are also scoring a league-low 96.6 points per 100 possessions against Indiana. Paul George (1.8) is sixth in the NBA in steals, while teammate Roy Hibbert (2.6) is fourth in the league in blocked shots. All of their bases are covered, whether it be on the perimeter with George and his length, or down low in the paint with Hibbert and his size. This is going to be a low-scoring series, so the Pacers defense will need to shine through and overpower Atlanta.
How the Atlanta Hawks will win this series
This Hawks team will go as far as Josh Smith takes them. In 76 games this season, Josh Smith has averaged 17.5 points, 8.4 rebounds and 4.2 assists. Not only is he playing for further playoff glory, but Smith is also competing for that max-contract he so desperately desires. This will be his chance to show teams around the league why he’s worth that kind of money. Atlanta excels from behind-the-arc, shooting 37.1%, which is seventh in the NBA. If guys like Kyle Korver and Jeff Teague can string some long-range shots together against a defense that has found great success in the past defending the perimeter, the Pacers could be in for a world of hurt.
Final Prediction: Indiana Pacers in six