By MICHAEL MAROT
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
The Atlanta Hawks are ready to start mixing it up with Indiana.
They don’t have a choice.
After complaining about how the first playoff game was called, then getting chastised by their own coach for their poor effort in the loss, the Hawks spent two days assessing the damage and how to counter the Pacers’ tough, in-your-face brand of basketball. The simple solution: Punch back.
“I’ve made no quarrels about how I feel we played from a physicality standpoint,” Hawks coach Larry Drew said. “They (the players) are in agreement. So we have to come out and be more of a presence from a physicality standpoint. Not to hurt anybody, but doing things harder. Doing things with much more physicality.”
For the Hawks, Game 2 on Wednesday night isn’t just a chance to get even with the Pacers. It’s a brand new opportunity.
Stealing a win on the road in this first-round playoff series would send Atlanta home for Games 3 and 4 with that all-important split on the road, provide needed confidence and momentum, and prove to the rest of the league that these refocused Hawks are far better than the sixth-seeded team that showed up for Sunday’s series-opening debacle.
Atlanta is at its best when it scores in transition and makes 3-pointers, and Indiana never gave the Hawks a chance to get into that comfort zone Sunday. Atlanta managed only 14 fast-break points Sunday, largely because the Central Division champs committed only 14 turnovers and most of those came on dead-ball possession changes.
The Hawks did manage to make 7 of 17 3-pointers but that was only slightly more efficient than the Pacers 7 of 19 and no distinct advantage.