The Indiana Pacers and Atlanta Hawks will face off in a winner-take-all Game 7 tonight. Both teams have struggled to defend their home court, but the Pacers have worked all season to have the deciding final game of the series on their home floor. Indiana has been struggling in a major way over the last couple of months, but they are just one game away from surviving a huge test and advancing to the second round of the NBA Playoffs.
What three keys do the Pacers have to focus on in Game 7 in order to come away with a victory and advance to face the Washington Wizards?
1. Contain Jeff Teague
The most important key in Game 7 for the Pacers is going to be controlling Hawks’ point guard Jeff Teague. He has been the main reason that the Hawks are currently tied in the series at 3-3, and has both scored big numbers himself and created for his teammates. Without a big game from Teague, the Hawks are likely not going to be able to match the Pacers’ talent level.
2. Move the Basketball for Good, Open Shots
One of the biggest issues with the Pacers’ offense during their struggles has been the poor offensive production that they have been putting up. Ball movement has not been one of their strengths, and they have settled for contested jump shots rather than getting to the rim or getting open looks. In Game 6, the Pacers did a much better job in both of those categories and they will need to do the same thing in Game 7.
3. Play 48 Minutes with Consistent Energy
Indiana hasn’t been a first half team all season, and they have made their living off of energetic second half comebacks. That has been the case for their wins against the Hawks in this season as well, but that can’t be the case in Game 7. If the Pacers want to come out and take this game from the Hawks, they are going to have to do it from the opening tip. The energy and effort level has to start out as high as possible, and that needs to continue until they officially punch their ticket into the second round.
While the mood in Indianapolis certainly has changed following the Pacers’ Game 6 performance, there are still quite a few skeptics. The team simply hasn’t played well recently, and hasn’t won two games in a row of note in quite some time. Tonight, the pressure is on both teams and it will be up to the heart and effort that is left on the floor to determine which teams faces Washington in the second round.
Evan Massey is a Staff Writer for HoopsHabit.com. Follow Evan on Twitter at @Massey_Evan.