The Indiana Pacers boasted arguably the best defense in the NBA in the regular season. Have we seen that defense yet in the playoffs against the Atlanta Hawks?
"You haven't," admitted Pacers forward Paul George at a Wednesday morning shootaround. "They're probably shooting around 50% for the series. That's not good. We're a 40% kind of defense. We haven't even been close to keeping them to that in this series. It's good to say that we still have room to improve. But we've got to make that improvement."
The Pacers allowed opponents to shoot just 42% from the field in the regular season, which led the NBA. But in four playoff games, the Hawks have shot over 46% against Indiana. The Pacers also led the NBA in defending the three point line during the regular season, allowing less than 33%. But the Hawks are shooting better than 39% in the first round playoff series. The Pacers gave up just under 91 points a game in the regular season. The Hawks are averaging 95 points in the series.
"I've been very pleased with our offense," said Hawks coach Larry Drew at the Hawks Wednesday morning shoot around, "even after losing games one and two. The Pacers have been a really good defensive team all season long. But I think our guys have done a good job with shot selection."
The Pacers' defensive lapses allowed the Hawks to win two games in Atlanta and even the best-of-seven series at two apiece. Game 5 is tonight at Bankers Life Fieldhouse at 8:00 p.m.
"These last two games we've pounded the ball in to Josh (Smith) and Al (Horford)," said Hawks point guard Jeff Teague, an Indianapolis native from Pike High School. "Those guys made plays. Our outside shooting as well, Kyle (Korver) came in and made big three's. It's just moving the ball and playing together."
Pacers coach Frank Vogel is confident his team can still win this series with a return to form on defense. The Pacers held the Hawks to 15% shooting and 12 points in the third quarter of game 4 Monday night.
"We've seen it sporadically at times," said Pacers coach Frank Vogel. "We've made some adjustments. I thought we were better in game 4 in a lot of areas than we've been. I think what we did in the third quarter is something we can bottle up and recreate. Hopefully we do that tonight."
The home team has won every game in the series.
"It's been a pretty good series," said Hawks forward Josh Smith. "They took care of their business at home for the first two games. We did the same in return in the last two. So this game is going to be a really physical and emotional game for both teams."
The series goes back to Atlanta for game 6 on Friday night. The Pacers have lost 13 games in a row at Philips Arena. Game 7, if needed, is Sunday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.