On Tuesday night, the Indiana Pacers travel to Atlanta to face the Hawks in the night’s only matchup featuring two teams with winning records.
The Eastern Conference’s best team had a little bit of trouble with the conference’s third best team the first time the two teams met, losing to the Hawks in Atlanta 97-87. The Pacers shot just 40.2 percent on the evening and had 16 turnovers and just 19 assists. A balanced Hawks attack shot 45 percent from the field, including 10-23 from beyond the arc, and had 27 assists with just 10 turnovers. The heralded Pacers defense didn’t have much of an answer for the Hawks offense, which had five players in double figures.
The Pacers were without Lance Stephenson that game, who sat out with a bruised knee. Paul George had a great game with 28 points and 12 rebounds, but he didn’t receive much help from his teammates, who shot a combined 24-62 (38 percent). Roy Hibbert and David West combined for just 10 points on 5-19 shooting. They need to assert themselves down low if they want to win, because even on anight where Hibbert had just four rebounds, they out rebounded the Hawks 46-34 despite his struggles. Paul Millsap had an off night as well for the Hawks, tallying just four points, so if they can keep him in check again only good things can happen. They will have to slow down Pero Antic this time, who had 16 points on 6-10 shooting, 3-6 from three and a game-high +/- of +20.
The Pacers are also on one of their worst stretches of the season as they are 4-3 in their last seven games, so for their standards, they are trying to get back on track. So is George, who had his worst month of the season in January, recording season-low shooting stats in the first month of 2014, shooting 41 percent from the field and 31.5 percent from three-point range. This will be a good game for him to get back on track, as the Hawks allow their opponents to shoot 46 percent from the field.
The Pick: I think the Pacers had an off night the last time these teams played. The Hawks lead the league in assists per game (25.7) and the Pacers lead the league in assists allowed per game (17.4). The Pacers have to limit the Hawks’ ball movement this time and keep Antic and Kyle Korver in check, who combined for 6-11 from three in the first game. Luckily the Pacers are the third best three-point defense in the league. These teams strengths matchup, which brings an interesting game. The bigs need to keep Antic in check and everybody needs to help out Paul George on offense so he can get back on track. With Stephenson in the lineup this time, I think the Pacers get the job done, winning 98-91.
When: 7:30 p.m. ET
Where: Phillips Arena, Atlanta, GA