Should the Pacers play small ball?

David Manning-USA TODAY Sports

Indiana is falling fast, and their core is shaken. The backbone of the best defensive team in the NBA is exposed. That backbone is supposed to protect the paint, but the Hawks are drawing the rim protectors to the three-point line. The backbone has scoliosis.

With 6:45 remaining in the fourth quarter Frank Vogel went small. It only lasted 50 seconds, but Vogel went with a lineup of C.J. Watson, George Hill, Lance Stephenson, Paul George and Roy Hibbert.

Vogel has never matched up with a small-ball lineup. The identity of the Pacers is their size, their defensive presence around the rim. But this series could change that.

The Hawks have shooters everywhere. The Pacers big men can’t protect the paint and defend on the perimeter.

Here’s some of the threes Pero Antic and Paul Millsap shot.




Uncontested. The two big men were 4-of-9 from beyond the arc, and seven of those nine shots were wide open.

So should the Pacers go small? Should they try out that lineup from above for more than 50 seconds?

Vogel isn’t tipping his hand yet.

"(We’ll) probably stick with what we have, but in the playoffs you gotta contemplate everything," Vogel said. "We have a difficult matchup with a unique offensive attack."

Vogel could play Paul George at the four, and let him deal with Paul Millsap inside and out. Of course that means George can’t guard Teague, and West still struggled with Antic.

But it would be a change. It could be better than game one. But it goes completely against the Pacers identity.

A Pacers version of small ball that is probably more feasible is playing Luis Scola and David West together. Vogel did use this lineup a few times during the season, and it would allow the Pacers to stick George on Teague.

Or Vogel could turn to fan favorite Chris Copeland for some time at the four. He’s supposed to be on this team for offense, but maybe he would possess the ability to cover the stretch fours and fives Atlanta has. And Indiana could even give Atlanta some of its own medicine by using Copeland in the pick and pop.

But all of these moves negate the Pacers strength. Indiana should be able to take advantage on the inside. On the first two possessions they did. West cut to the basket for an easy lay in, and Hibbert made a post move on Antic for two points. But then nothing. The Pacers didn’t make the Hawks work inside.

The Pacers aren’t forcing the Hawks’ hand, instead the one seed is now scrambling to plug holes in a sinking ship.

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