Hawks vs. Pacers: Atlanta's new starting lineup makes difference in Game 3

Kevin C. Cox

Johan Petro started in place of Kyle Korver on Saturday night. The Hawks felt the impact immediately.

Prior to Saturday's crucial Game 3 showdown between the Hawks and Pacers, coach Larry Drew made a big decision regarding his starting lineup. It might've shifted the momentum in the series.

Instead of sticking with sharp-shooting Kyle Korver, Drew opted to start big man Johan Petro at center. The decision shifted Al Horford to power forward and Josh Smith to the wing. After being pounded on the boards in Games 1 and 2, it only made sense to beef up the frontline.

Petro ended up playing only 14 minutes, but the lineup change immediately paid dividends. The Hawks outscored Indiana 27-14 in the first quarter and controlled the tempo, something they did not do in the opening games of the series. The new lineup helped lead Atlanta to an 18-0 run midway through the first half, and the team never looked back from there.

"It all started with Smith. His effort on Paul George set the tone for the game," Drew said in his postgame news conference.

Smith, who battled foul trouble for the second game in a row during the second half, finished the game with 14 points, six rebounds, six assists and three steals. Horford led the way with a team-high 26 points and 16 rebounds, including six on the offensive glass.

Unlike the past two games, Atlanta really dug in on the defensive end.

Credit the home crowd or a couple of unlucky attempts from the Pacers, but there was clearly a difference on Saturday night. Indiana shot just 27 percent from the floor, including 4-of-25 from behind the three-point arc. They seldom got to the rim without being contested, and they turned the ball over 22 times.

"This team has done something they've done all year long, which is respond," Drew said.

Respond, indeed. Now, the Hawks need to do it three more times if they hope to avoid another early exit in the playoffs.

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