May 3, 2014; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indiana Pacers center Roy Hibbert (55) celebrates during the fourth quarter against the Atlanta Hawks in game seven of the first round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Indiana won 92-80. Mandatory Credit: Pat Lovell-USA TODAY Sports

Pacers hang on in Game 7 to avoid historical upset

The result of the first round Indiana-Atlanta series was ultimately what everyone would have expected before the playoffs began.

But not very many folks saw a highly-contested, seven game series on the docket in mid-April. The Hawks took advantage of a discombobulated and disjointed Pacers squad throughout the series, alternating wins with the #1-seed through the first six games of the series.

And finally, on Saturday afternoon, Indiana was able to take advantage of their home court advantage and win two games in a row to secure a 4-3 series win. Of course, nothing about the Pacers advancing in the playoffs instilled much in the way of confidence in the squad, as it was anything but pretty. Roy Hibbert is still playing some seriously shaky basketball, and the Pacers will require much more out of him if they are going to advance past the Washington Wizards in the second round.

Then again, the somewhat surprising Wizards’ victory over the Bulls in the first round could also be seen as a lucky draw for Frank Vogel’s team. Clearly Washington is a dangerous team, but they probably aren’t quite the threat that Chicago might have been if they hadn’t lost in the first round.

The battle in the paint between Nene and Marcin Gortat for the Wizards versus Hibbert and David West of the Pacers will be one of the major keys to the series. John Wall should be able to assert himself against the Pacers’ uneven group of guards, and Indiana will also need Paul George to start playing like he did back in the fall and winter of 2013.

At first glance, I’d say that Indiana wins this series in six games. But it won’t be a walk in the park, especially after seeing them struggle so mightily with an Al Horford-less Hawks squad.

The series starts on Monday night in Indiana on TNT. The game time has not yet been announced, but we’ll have a preview of the second round match-ups here at DWW before they start tipping off at the start of next week.

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