Knocking down shots against the Indiana Pacers was supposed to be the hard part for the Atlanta Hawks in this opening-round series. And yet, in Game 1, the Hawks found themselves losing by nearly 20 points despite shooting 50 percent from the field.
If the Hawks want to avoid another early exit from the postseason this year, it appears they'll have to do more than simply shoot well to beat the Pacers.
Though Indiana is known for its stiff defense, it was the general physicality of the Pacers that left Atlanta overwhelmed in the opening game. Whether it was attacking the basket or fighting for rebounds, the Pacers were more aggressive and more physical, helping to offset the Hawks' superior shooting.
If the Hawks can't win a game when shooting well, how can they keep up in this series? Here are three questions to break down Game 2.
1. Can the Hawks get to the charity stripe?
In the first game of the series, the Hawks shot significantly better from the floor than their opponents and took only two fewer shot attempts. How did the Pacers make the game so darn lopsided then, you ask? Free throws.
Not only did the Hawks get destroyed in terms of trips to the charity stripe, they struggled to capitalize on their infrequent opportunities. Shooting well from the field isn't nearly as important when you're 7-of-14 from the free throw line while your opponents are 30-of-34.
Paul George alone was 17-of-18 from the charity stripe in Game 1, more than doubling the number of makes than Atlanta put up. It's pretty hard to win games when you give the other team a 23-point advantage solely in terms of free throws.
2. Will the Pacers keep dominating the boards?
No team in the NBA crashed the boards better than Indiana this season. Per NBA.com, the Pacers were tops in the league in rebounding rate, thanks to active players like George, Roy Hibbert and David West. Meanwhile, the Hawks were in the bottom five in rebounding rate this season.
As the facts lay out pretty clearly, the Hawks will have a tough time competing on the boards in this series. This reality was fleshed out in the opening game, as the Pacers crushed the Hawks in rebounding, 48-32, while getting numerous extra opportunities from their 15 offensive rebounds.
Al Horford can't do this all by himself.
3. Will someone step up for Atlanta?
In Game 1, it was Indiana's George that came through with the big performance, riding his many trips to the free throw line to an impressive triple-double with 23 points, 12 assists and 11 rebounds. The Hawks will likely need someone to emerge and be the man in this series if they want to keep it going.
Though they all recorded decent statistics, Atlanta's best players -- Horford, Teague, Josh Smith -- weren't able to carry the team in Game 1. Teague finished with a team-leading 21 points and seven assists, but the two big men combined to go 0-of-3 from the free throw line, reflecting an inability to force the issue in the post.
If the Hawks are going to pile up points against Indiana, they're going to need their best players to step up with big scoring performances. Expecting guys like Korver and Harris to carry the load simply won't work.