- It doesn’t qualify as a surprise, but it’s worth noting that Hawks coach Larry Drew Saturday made good on his not-so-subtle suggestions that he hasn’t been happy with the way his team has played when he changed the starting lineup for Game 3 against the visiting Pacers. In an attempt to better match up with Indiana’s size advantage, 7-footer Johan Petro will start at center, Al Horford will slide to power forward and Josh Smith will move to small forward for Atlanta. That will push Kyle Korver, who started at small forward in Atlanta’s two lopsided losses in Indiana, to the bench. This will be just the second time this season that the Hawks have started these five together; the Hawks lost the other. “Going big we do match up with them a little better, particularly at (center) and (small forward),” Drew said.
- Korver is averaging just seven points, two rebounds and one assist against the Pacers in this series.
- The most interesting matchup to come out of Drew’s change will be Smith guarding Indiana small forward Paul George, who after a dreadful slump to close the regular season is averaging 25 points per game.
- Petro is not known for his defense. The Frenchman is a scorer. Defense, though, has been the Hawks’ problem in this series and the best matchup they had in the post against Indiana earlier in the season is not available. Zaza Pachulia, the backup center who held Roy Hibbert scoreless with one rebound in Atlanta’s 109-100 home win over the Pacers on Dec. 29, had season-ending Achilles tendon surgery. Pachulia, an extremely physical big man, is sorely missed by the Hawks. He had 17 points and 14 rebounds in that game.
- The Pacers have a 2-0 lead in the series, but have lost 11 straight games in Atlanta dating back to Dec. 22, 2006. Then again, the last time Indiana and Atlanta met in the playoffs, the Pacers won Hawks 83-75 on May 2, 1996 in the old Omni.
– Matt Winkeljohn