Indiana Pacers (29-19)
Atlanta Hawks (26-20)
The Pacers have gone 14 straight home games without losing. That’s one of the longest streaks they’ve had in their team’s history. So why am I worried about tonight’s game? Because it is against the Atlanta Hawks, who have seemed to have had the Pacers’ number in the past few years. The Pacers have lost four straight to the Hawks, which included two losses this season. But we saw what happened last time the Pacers played a team, the Bucks, who had beat them twice already, they went out and won by double figures. Tonight’s game could be an excellent chance for the Pacers to do that, especially a game at home where they are 19-3.
The home court domination is something this team has taken pride in. They’ve shown that they’re a different beast on the home floor. Passes are better, shots are going down, defense is clamped down, it’s a great way to string some wins, and this month alone features 10 games homes. The Pacers travel to Philly tomorrow, and then it’s a string of five home games. Plenty of chances to improve upon that home record.
But it will take all hands on deck to slow down the Hawks who average around 96 points a game. Even a better defensive effort against the starters of the Hawks, who last game all had double figures. It was Lou Williams leading the way with 21 points. Al Horford had a strong game with his own 20 points. That match up with Roy Hibbert and Horford will be the one to watch. I think these guys each want to out play each other as they look to prove who is the better center in the league. What a great night for Hibbert to showcase his skills as many people are souring on him and his contract. If he can come through in a game that’s this big for the team, that might change their tune.
Paul George is the guy that Pacer fans have been watching as well. With his impressive play over the past couple of months, and an All Star bid to round it out, he’s shown how improved he is. I was just thinking if Danny Granger comes back in a strong effort, and with the way George is playing, that will be a tandem to deal with. And I haven’t even mentioned David West, who has been HUGE in the past two games. 30 points against the Miami Heat, and 29 points against the Chicago Bulls last night. Two big games in big environments for a guy that just does what he can each time out.
With the way the Pacers have found that offensive flow, this could be a higher scoring game than anticipated. Even last night’s game with the Bulls ended up over 100 points for each team, which is not anywhere near what I expected. The Pacers have shown those flashes of better offensive play to keep up with the impressive defensive effort. With both sides clicking, a Pacers win should be expected, especially with the way they’ve played on the home floor. Anymore to add to this preview should include that with a win tonight, the Pacers would be back in sole possession of first place in the Central Division. No pressure at all to do that.