Smash-mouth basketball is a Frank Vogel term tossed around liberally to help explain the Pacers' effort and toughness used to earn wins even without an efficient offense. The Pacers are 1-1 in their last two games but there was little to point to in their play that would be considered tough.
There was an obvious lack of smash-mouth attack in Atlanta. Not only did the Pacers get beat on the glass, they allowed the Hawks easy access to the rim with little if any retribution. Heading into the game on Wednesday, Atlanta was making 60.6% of their shots at the rim, averaging 14.9 makes on 24.6 attempts. For comparison's sake, the Pacers were making 56.4% averaging 13.5 makes on 24 attempts.
Against the Pacers, however the Hawks were 18 for 24 at the rim for a 75% success rate which actually seems low if you watched the game. The Pacers had been defending the rim pretty well before the dam broke against the Hawks. Prior to the game the opponents were shooting 59.5% at the rim which was ranked fifth in the league.
This little snapshot highlights the fact that the Pacers can't simply show up and win. They have to be ready to beat opponents in a race down the court and be ready to fight and claw for every rebound that is up for grabs (another area where the Hawks pounded the Pacers).
The smash-mouth philosophy is made up of a bunch of little effort plays that come together to make playing the Pacers an unpleasant experience. For the Hawks, playing the Pacers was like a walk in the park. Memphis has some similar parts that will require a better effort from the Pacers to avoid losing their second game in a row for the first time this season.
So it is time for the Pacers to toughen up and deliver the style of play and effort that has proven so successful.