Hawks vs. Pacers Game Preview

Ben Ladner

With two games left on their current road trip, both against superior teams, the Hawks risk winning fewer than three games in the month of November for the first time since 2006. Both Indiana and Houston pose difficult challenges in entirely contrasting ways. While the Rockets launch more 3s and fewer midrange jumpers than any team in the NBA, the Pacers play a more retrograde style. They take the second-fewest 3s and third-most midrangers in the league while playing two traditional big men together and grinding opponents down on defense.

Thus far, Indiana’s method has produced better results than Houston’s; the Pacers own the NBA’s sixth-best offense and seventh-best net rating behind a surprisingly strong collective effort. Five Pacers average more than 12 points per game – four score at least 17 – yet none have ever made an All-Star team or earned significant leaguewide recognition. Malcolm Brogdon leads the charge in the backcourt as the team’s leading scorer and distributor while Domantas Sabonis has taken a leap as a scorer and rebounder. Myles Turner balances out Sabonis’ crafty, physical interior play by stretching defenses away from the paint, hitting nearly 46 percent of his 3-pointers on four attempts per game.

Game Time: Friday, November 29, 2019, 8:00 p.m. ET

Location: Banker’s Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis, IN

TV: FOX Sports Southeast, FOX Sports Indiana

Streaming: NBA League Pass, FOX Sports Go

Without Victor Oladipo – who will likely return in early 2020 from a ruptured quad – the Pacers lack a dynamic downhill creator (Brogdon is more the patient type) who can find the rim on a consistent basis. Absent that, Indiana plays a steady, disciplined game that forces opponents to play in an unfamiliar environment and consider the importance of every possession. That makes them a fascinating test for the Hawks, who play some of the least disciplined or consistent basketball of any team in the NBA. That’s to be expected of a team as young as Atlanta, but NBA teams don’t apply learning curves to their opponents. Atlanta has learned from experience, but at the cost of winning. Like most veteran teams, Indiana will force the Hawks to execute and remain attentive, and exploit them if they don’t.

While the Pacers don’t force an inordinate amount of turnovers, the Hawks cough the ball up more than every team but one, and against a defense as sound as Indiana’s will be challenged to take care of the ball on every possession. The Pacers are also a solid offensive rebounding team while the Hawks are the worst defensive rebounding team in basketball. The tandem of Turner and Sabonis is a difficult one to keep off the glass, and at least one of Jabari Parker and Damian Jones will be forced into an uncomfortable defensive matchup.

Expect Brogdon to take the primary assignment on Trae Young. Brogdon is a quick, hefty defender who stays attached to his man’s body and doesn’t allow easy separation. He has size, strength, and length advantages over Young and will force Atlanta’s point guard into the jaws of Indiana’s defense, where Turner blocks over 2.5 shots per game. The floater will be a key shot for Young, as it is every game. If the Pacers keep Turner back in the paint against pick-and-rolls, like the Bucks did with their bigs, Young’s pull-up jumper will become a more viable weapon as well. 

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