Vivlamore reporting from Philips Arena.
Watch the Hawks’ rebounding totals tonight against the Pacers. It might well be a good indicator of which Hawks team we will see.
As we have documented, the Hawks were killed on the boards in the season-opening loss to the Rockets. They bounced back (pun intended) to out-rebound the Thunder in a win Sunday.
Now, here come the Pacers. Even without All-Star Danny Granger, who may miss three months with knee problems, the Pacers lead the NBA in average rebounds (53.3) and defensive rebounds (38.0) per game. The Hawks, by stark contrast, are 27th in rebounds (37.3) and 26th in defensive rebounds (27.5). The Pacers will be playing their fifth game while the Hawks will be playing only their third.
Rebounding will be a point of emphasis for the Hawks, according to coach Larry Drew.
“Their size has always been a problem for us,” Drew said. “(Roy) Hibbert is a big body in the middle, does a great job posting up, does a great job sealing in the paint. He always poses a problem for us. We are going to have to do a good job, collectively, in trying to defend him in the post.
“That being said, they do good job on the boards. With their size, they’ve got some guys who can rebound the basketball – Hibbert, (David) West and when (Tyler) Hansbrough comes into the game he’s known for his aggressive play and his ability to rebound the ball. We are going to have our hands full tonight. As I told our big guys we have to bring a physical mentality to the game tonight because it’s going to be physical. Our games with them have always been physical.”
The Pacers have three players in the top 40 in the NBA in rebounding. Guard Paul George is seventh (10.5), West is tied for 15th (9.3) and Hibbert is tied for 36th (7.8). The Hawks have only Al Horford in that group, tied for 25th (8.5).
Josh Smith returns after missing the last game with a sprained right ankle. The forward said now, more than ever, the team must adhere to its team rebounding approach.
“They have Roy Hibbert, Tyler Hansbrough coming off the bench, David West,” Smith said. “Their guards come in and rebound too. They definitely crash the boards and we are going to need everybody healthy and everybody in attendance tonight so we can gang rebound. It has to be a team effort.”
The Pacers (2-2) also lead the NBA in holding opponents to just a .389 field goal percentage.
- Chris Vivlamore