1. Summarize the Hawks season for Pacer fans who only witnessed the four games Indiana played them this season.
After the trades of Joe Johnson and Marvin Williams, the Hawks were very obviously entering a transition season in 2012-2013. Not a total rebuilding season, not with Josh Smith, Al Horford and Jeff Teague still in the starting lineup, but with 10 players in the last season of their contracts, this was obviously going to a be a season which bridged the last era to a new one.
While most of us (and surprisingly the NBA experts) predicted a five or six seed for the Hawks with 44-47 wins, how they got there was a surprise. First, there was no deal for Josh Smith, also, a season ending injury to Louis Williams, signed to supplant the offensive gap left with Joe Johnson. Then the loss of key big man Zaza Pachulia for the year to a mysterious ailment which turned out to be an Achilles injury, forced more minutes for Ivan Johnson and rookie Mike Scott. These two guys have surprisingly responded with efficient productivity.
Kyle Korver has been more than just a 3-point specialist for the Hawks, Jeff Teague has taken yet another step up in his growth and Al Horford has filled into the team leader and offensive force he was becoming before his shoulder injury last season.
Since January 19th, which is when Lou Williams was lost for the season, Horford has averaged 19.8 ppg and 10.8 rpg while dishing 3 assists per game.
Also, with Johnson gone, the Hawks have finally ditched Iso-ball and had over 2000 assists for the first time since 1993-1994 -- the year Dominique Wilkins was traded to the Clippers. That's a long time ago.
2. How will we know if the Hawks are on their game?
You will know the Hawks are going to be tough if you see them moving with purpose on both ends of the floor. The team can be highly efficient, but this team relies on motion to make things happen offensively and to take care of things on the defensive end.
3. How will we know if they are off their game?
If Jeff Teague appears to be deferring, a lot, and doesn't attack -- If Josh Smith isn't attacking the rim -- If Indiana is getting into the lane early and often.
4. Biggest key for the Hawks in this series will be......?
Teague's approach to the game. When he is in attack-mode, he makes the Hawks outside shooting very dangerous -- and it's his energy and movement that makes the rest of the offense move as well. Defensively, when he isn't carelessly taking chances and letting his man get in the lane, the efficiency goes up.
5. How does Larry Drew impact the Hawks on game night?
Coming out of timeouts, Drew has a knack for getting the Hawks into a good play that yields a real good look at the hoop. He doesn't get too high or too low, which promotes a sense of calm, even when things have gotten rough. This has helped the Hawks come back from double-digits 10 times this season, including a franchise best 27 points down against the Celtics in January.
6. Player that was on last year's team that you wish you could have back this season is...?
I would take Marvin Williams for this series, so he can match up with Paul George. As soon as the Hawks traded Williams, they traded away their only primary three who carries plus man-defense skills.
7. Who is most likely to scrap with Tyler Hansbrough?
Well, Ivan Johnson is an obvious answer in the absence of Zaza Pachulia, who is sadly out for the season. Ivan took out a backboard at a nearby practice court one of the times the Hawks came through this year.
8. Expecting plenty of Hawks bias here, but how does this series end and why?
These teams split the series this season, but the Hawks did not have the services of surprising Hawks X-Factor Devin Harris in either loss. The Hawks are 24-10 in games that Harris started, 21-6 when he plays more than 25 minutes and 20-8 when he scores 10+ points in a game. They are 4-0 when he reaches 20 points. Devin Harris, everybody!
So, according the the math, the Hawks should win in five as long as Harris plays 25 minutes a game. So I'll be conservative and say Hawks in six.
Bias aside, I believe these teams know each other very well and this should be an excellent series, even if nobody nationally wants to watch.