The Atlanta Hawks and the Indiana Pacers are both in the thick of playoff positioning in the Eastern Conference, but are headed in separate directions in the standings. The Hawks have hit a rough patch over the last month, going 6-9 since January 4, 2013. That stretch has included losses to the Pistons, Cavaliers, and Wizards. On the other hand, since losing to the Hawks on December 29, 2012, the Pacers have gone 11-6, including wins over the Grizzlies twice, the Heat twice, and the Knicks.
The Pacers boast an All-Star for the second consecutive year, with Paul George getting the nod instead of a struggling Roy Hibbert. With Danny Granger nursing a sore left knee, George has taken over the role of leader and main offense option. He averages 17.3 points, 7.7 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 1.8 steals and .8 blocks in 37.3 minutes a game.
Though Roy Hibbert has looked completely lost on offense for the vast majority of the year, he is the rock of the best defense in the league. The Pacers only give up and 89.9 points per game and 95.6 points per 100 possessions. The Indiana Pacers have won 14 straight games in Bankers Life Fieldhouse and have moved into a tie for the third seed in the Eastern Conference.
The Hawks rode an 18-0 run to stave off the Pacers 89-86 on November 7 earlier this season. The game was won on the glass, with Al Horford and Zaza Pachulia taking down 23 rebounds together en route to a 51-41 team advantage in that category. Last matchup, the Hawks bested the Pacers in Atlanta behind a career game from the currently injured Lou Williams. Six players scored in double figures in that late December match and the Hawks may need a similarly balanced output to cut through the stonewall Pacers defense.
The Pacers give up the second lowest opponent 3 point percentage, so I wouldn’t be a good idea to fall in love with the jump shot, like the Hawks have done lately. If Josh Smith and Al Horford can navigate their way around the 7’2” Roy Hibbert and attack the low post, the Hawks should be able to come away with at least a season series win and possibly a sweep.