HAWKS 96 PACERS 113: It’s a good thing the Hawks spotted themselves 6 wins, because they are going to need all of them. Coming off three straight losses (two against a below-average Nets team), the Hawks were confronted with yet another roadblock in this early season when Al Horford went down with a sprained ankle. X-rays were negative, but it is unclear how much time the power forward will miss.
Even more troubling, however, were the return of the recurring themes of the past two losses: (1) a lack of interior defense and energy and (2) an influx of turnovers. Without either, its virtually impossible to win on the road. The Hawks found that out the hard way. They were shredded yet again as the Pacers sprinted past the century mark, the fifth team to do so in as many games. While the Hawks cut it to nine in the fourth, the game was seemingly over at the half.
Power forwards Zaza Pachulia and Solomon Jones were systemically abused in the process by Troy Murphy and Rasho Nesterovic. First Brook Lopez and now Rasho? At least Troy Murphy has established himself in the league. In one spellbinding sequence, Rasho Nesterovic caught the ball practically underneath the basket as Pachulia seemed perfectly fine with the idea of giving up space in the paint. Solomon Jones didn’t fair much better. While Solo remains active throughout each contest, his game is non-existent offensively and his defense – again while active – is suspect. Solo is a classic “shadower” – he’ll shadow a guy defensively, but never get close enough to impact the shot effectively. Athough Solo is a “veteran” in the league, he seemingly plays more like a rookie as he appears extremely uncomfortable handling the ball on offense. (On a side note, I can’t remember the last time I saw Solo score from something other than a dunk.)
While there’s clearly no reason to panic ten games into the season, there is also no reason to take the last few games lightly. The Hawks have a crushing schedule in the forefront and they will have to focus on energy and defense to remain competitive. Moreover, Woodson is going to have to trust his bench (something he has struggled to do since he was hired), and give some minutes to Law and Morris.