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Pacers-Hawks Outlook

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No. 3 Indiana Pacers vs. No. 6 Atlanta Hawks

Series Price: Indiana -600, Atlanta +400

Series Format: Indiana, 2-2-1-1-1

Game 1 - Sunday, Apr. 21
Game 2 - Wednesday, Apr. 24
Game 3 - Saturday, Apr. 27
Game 4 - Monday, Apr. 29
Game 5* - Wednesday, May 1
Game 6* - Friday, May 3
Game 7* - Sunday, May 5

HEAD TO HEAD COMPARISONS
TEAM SU ATS HOME AWAY OVER/UNDER PPG DPPG
Indiana Pacers 49-32 42-39 30-11 19-21 38-42 94.7 90.7
Atlanta Hawks 44-38 37-43 25-16 19-22 42-39 98 97.5
2012-13 Head to Head Meetings
Date Results Total
Nov. 7, 2012 Atlanta (+1) 89 vs. Indiana 86 UNDER 192
Dec. 29, 2012 Atlanta (-2.5) 109 vs. Indiana 100 OVER 182
Feb. 5, 2013 Indiana (-6) 114 vs. Atlanta 103 OVER 184
Mar. 25, 2013 Indiana (-6.5) 100 vs. Atlanta 94 OVER 184.5

Skinny: Both teams limp into the postseason but it’s debatable if that matters. Indiana was basically locked into the No. 3 seed before it dropped five of its last six games. Atlanta tanked its last two games in order to fall to the sixth seed. The thinking had to be that there wasn’t much difference between the Nets and Pacers and in this scenario, the Hawks wouldn’t have to face mighty Miami in a potential second-round matchup. Remember, Atlanta hasn’t made the Eastern Conference finals in franchise history.

Indiana isn’t packing quite the punch it had when it led the Heat 2-1 and had an eight-point halftime lead in Game 4 of last season’s East semifinals. Danny Granger, who has averaged 18.2 points per game during his eight-year career, played only five games this year and remains out due to a knee injury.

However, Granger’s absence has allowed Paul George to become the focus of the offense. George responded with a career year, averaging 17.4 points, 7.6 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 1.8 steals per game. Veteran power forward David West remains one of the league’s top weapons on the low post, averaging 17.1 points and 7.7 rebounds per contest. George Hill and Roy Hibbert are averaging 14.2 and 11.9 PPG, respectively.

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Hibbert is fourth in the NBA in blocked shots, averaging 2.6 rejections per game. Lance Stephenson (8.8 PPG) and Gerald Green (7.0 PPG) provide the Pacers with athleticism off the bench.

Atlanta has been plagued by injuries all year long. Lou Williams, who was averaging 14.1 points and 3.6 assists per game, went down with an ACL tear before the All-Star break. Zaza Pachulia, the veteran big man whose bruising style is made for the postseason, is out for the year with an Achilles injury.

If the Hawks are going to have success in this series, they will need their horses to produce. I’m talking about Al Horford and Josh Smith. Horford enjoyed another banner campaign, averaging 17.4 points, 10.7 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 1.1 seals and 1.0 blocked shots per game. Horford is extremely efficient, draining 54.3 percent of his shots from the field.

Smith is most likely making his final appearances in a Hawks uniform. The soon-to-be free agent has had a very solid nine-year run with his hometown organization, but it has been a tortured existence the last few years.

Smith has as much talent as any player in the league. There just aren’t many 6-10 guys that can jump out of the gym, run the floor, penetrate off the dribble and shoot.

On his best nights, Smith scores by getting to (or tearing down) the rim, dishes to open teammates for easy buckets, dominates the boards and saves his teammates on defense by altering shots and blocking others. He can pull down a rebound, dribble the length of the floor and dunk on anyone’s face – and make it look easy.

But on other nights, his shot selection and body language are awful. Going on 3-4 years now, the home crowd at Philips Arena groans every time he misses a jumper from beyond 18 feet out.

There have been feuds with former coach Mike Woodson and current head man Larry Drew. There have been multiple suspensions and trade rumors galore.

To his credit, though, Smith has never been in trouble with the law. I only point that out because it’s not as if Smith is J.R. Rider (or even Michael Vick). He is soft spoken and hides his frustrations with the home crowd (rather than flicking them off like Vick once did) if they even exist.

Smith has indicated that he wants a ‘max contract,’ but GM Danny Ferry isn’t going that route. Unless Smith is a monster in this series, there won’t be a long line of teams ready to pull that trigger, either.

Kyle Korver is second in the NBA in 3-point shooting and he has to rain 3’s for the Hawks to push the Pacers. Jeff Teague and Devin Harris must play well, too.

Head-to-Head Matchups: These teams split the season series with the home team winning outright in four meetings. Atlanta won an 89-86 decision but failed to cover the number as a four-point ‘chalk’ on Nov. 7. Horford scored 16 points and grabbed nine rebounds, while Teague finished with 15 points, six boards, six assists and three steals. Hill and West scored 20 points apiece in the losing effort. The 175 combined points fell ‘under’ the 192-point total.

On Dec. 29 at Philips, the Hawks captured a 109-100 win as 2.5-point home favorites. The 209 combined points soared ‘over’ the 182-point tally. The catalysts for Atlanta were Williams and Pachulia, both of whom won’t be available in this series. Williams had 21 points and 12 assists, while Pachulia produced 17 points and 14 boards. West scored a game-high 29 points for the Pacers.

Indiana beat Atlanta 114-103 as a six-point home favorite on Feb. 5 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. George led seven players in double figures with 29 points. The 217 combined points coasted ‘over’ the 184-point total.

On March 24, the Pacers bested the Hawks 106-100 as 6.5-point home ‘chalk.’ Atlanta outscored Indy 31-15 in the final stanza to post the backdoor cover. The 206 combined points went ‘over’ the 194-point tally. Hibbert paced the winners with 17 points, 13 rebounds and three blocked shots.

The home team has won outright in nine of the last 10 head-to-head meetings.

Betting Notes: When listed as an underdog of six points or more this season, Atlanta has compiled a 5-5 spread record. As for the Pacers, they own a 15-15 spread record in 30 games as favorites of six points or more.

The ‘over’ is on a 6-2 run in Indiana’s last eight games. The ‘over’ is 4-1 in Atlanta’s last five outings.

Sportsbook.ag has the Pacers with 30/1 odds to win the NBA title. The Hawks have the second-longest odds at 250/1.

Series Outlook: ESPN.com took a poll of 10 of its writers/analysts and each predicted the Pacers to advance. Only one had the series going the seven-game distance.

With the exception of Horford and Teague, none of these Hawks are signed beyond this season. But they are all playing for their next contract(s) and this is the playoffs. Therefore, I expect Atlanta to give a quality effort and that should equate to a competitive series. I think the Pacers advance with a Game 6 victory at The Highlight Factory.

**B.E.’s Bonus Nuggets**

--Sportsbook.ag has the Heat as the -180 ‘chalk’ to win the NBA title. The Thunder own the second-shortest odds at +550 (risk $100 to win $550).

--On Thursday, Doug Collins resigned as the head coach of the Philadelphia 76ers. Indeed, the dude has had a hard-luck career. Collins was robbed of a gold medal at the 1972 Olympics. He was a four-time All-Star as a player for the 76ers, but they won the NBA title two years after injuries forced him into retirement. The Bulls didn’t win their NBA championships until the organization forced him out in favor of Phil Jackson. Then last season, Collins was lauded for his work with a young Sixers squad that knocked out the top-seeded Bulls (albeit sans Derrick Rose) in the first round of the playoffs. But when Philadelphia traded for Andrew Bynum this past off-season and then got zero minutes of playing time from him, Collins’s piss-poor luck surfaced once again. Clearly his exit comes from frustration with the move that resulted in a lost season and, unfortunately for Collins, it most likely signals the end of a career that was always successful but never tasted the ultimate prize.

--Also on Thursday, the Cavs fired Byron Scott after three disastrous campaigns that were predictable with LeBron’s exit from Cleveland. Plus, the Pistons handed Lawrence Frank a pink slip.

-- Quote of the Week: After suffering through Tuesday’s TNT games (Raptors-Hawks and Clippers-Trail Blazers), Charles Barkley remarked, “All I’m going to do tomorrow is sit around and watch basketball… I hope they got hi-definition in the club.”

  
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