The matchup problem Atlanta presents for Indiana is shooting big men. Pero Antic and Paul Millsap give the Hawks the perimeter threat from their frontcourt that has caused problems for the Pacers big men.
In 50 games this year Antic shot 3.4 threes per game, and knocked them down at a 32.7 percent rate. But in his two meetings with the Pacers defense, Antic drilled 60 percent of his threes (6/10).
The problem for the Pacers isn’t that the Hawks run complex actions to get him open on the three-point line, but rather Roy Hibbert, Ian Mahinmi or David West have to close out to the three-point line after basic actions.
Here the Hawks run some stagger screens for Kyle Korver. As Korver curls into the lane with the ball, West sinks into the lane for help defense. But West leaves Antic.
On top of Korver’s potential penetration drawing West away from Antic, West closes out way too slow and doesn’t even put a hand up.
Now – even less complex – Antic simply fakes going to set a ball screen.
That’s Mahinmi defending him. He was a little over zealous in getting into pick-and-roll defense. Antic simply backpedals and gets up a three.
This isn’t terrible defense, but it is a prime example of how the Pacers big men have to defend the perimeter in this series. One misstep can lead to three points.
Here’s another example of Antic drilling a three that isn’t wide open, but open enough due to one misstep by West.
West is concerned with the penetration, but he falls too far into the lane to get back to Antic. West does have a hand up this time, but again, Antic doesn’t need a lot of space.
"We just need to do a better job of recognizing what (Antic) does," Paul George told the Indy Star. "Our bigs are so good at protecting the paint and now they have to go out and (defend) a spread five man. It's a tough cover."
This is the matchup that worries the Pacers; the matchup that can force Indiana to alter its defensive strategy.
Beyond Antic, Millsap shoots 2.9 threes per game at 35.8 percent. Mike Scott also shoots a lot of threes for a post player, as he attempts 2.5 per game, while knocking down 31 percent of them.
Like Antic, Scott was better than his season average when he faced the Pacers. In four games, he shot 3.3 threes per game and made 38.5 percent of his threes. But Millsap is the opposite. His threes dropped to 2.3 per game, and he made just 11.1 percent against Indiana this season.
Cartier Martin and DeMarre Carroll aren’t bigs, but they do present even more three-point shooting for the Hawks. Martin is a 38.4 percent shooter on threes – 58.3 percent against Indiana – and Carroll is at 36.2 percent for the season.
The Hawks will roll out a lineup of Jeff Teague, Korver, Carroll, Millsap and Antic that can hit threes from any position. This is the second most used lineup for the Hawks this season. This unit was the second best offensive lineup for Atlanta, as they averaged 106.1 points per 100 possessions. These five shoot 38.4 percent on threes, and 42.8 percent of their field goal attempts were threes.
Against Indiana, this unit saw 29 minutes in two games this season, and they roasted the Indiana defense. They shot 45 percent from beyond arc, and they scored 113.3 points per 100 possessions. It was the most efficient Atlanta lineup against Indiana that saw at least 10 minutes.
The Pacers will have their hands full on the perimeter at every possession. This matchup could very well determine the series, as Hibbert, West Mahinmi and Luis Scola will have to chase around the three-point line.
However, Indiana has its own advantage with the Hawks, rebounding. For more on the importance of this battle check out Peachtree Hoops.
Update: Thought I'd throw in Antic's shot chart for the season and against Indiana this year, per Porkbevr's request.