Indiana Pacers (28-6) at Atlanta Hawks (18-17)
The Indiana Pacers travel to Atlanta for a matchup with the Hawks tonight on the second night of a back-to-back. It marks the first regular season meeting between the two teams since Indiana ousted Atlanta in the first round of the playoffs in 2013.
This is a somewhat different Hawks team without Josh Smith. Smith signed an offseason deal with the Detroit Pistons as a free agent. Atlanta is also without big man Jon Horford tonight, who is out indefinitely after undergoing surgery.
Thus, the Indiana Pacers need to feed the big men. I’m speaking of Roy Hibbert, David West and Luis Scola. Hibbert has a troubled history of trying to guard Horford, but with him out of the lineup, it is Hibbert’s time to shine. Big Roy is coming off a 22-point, eight-rebound performance Tuesday night against Toronto. Hibbert should look for easy baskets early and get into a rhythm.
It would also be nice to see Scola put up double-figures in points off the bench tonight. Not to mention West, who only scored four points in the win over the Raptors. Paul Millsap presents a challenge for West and Scola, as he is capable of stretching the floor, posting up and attacking the glass.
Simply put, I don’t see Pero Antic, Horford’s backup, being able to stop Hibbert in the paint.
DeMarre Carroll is solid defensively at the small forward spot for the Hawks, but that also means Paul George needs to be more aggressive on the offensive side of the ball. George is coming off one of his worst performances on offense this season and should be out to get his shots.
Atlanta still has a nice backcourt duo of Jeff Teague and Kyle Korver. It is always fun to watch the two Indiana products in Teague and Pacers guard George Hill battle it out. Korver is obviously a threat from beyond the arc, so Lance Stephenson will have his hands full. Although Korver cannot guard Stephenson, either.
Atlanta has scoring threats off the bench as well in Elton Brand and Lou Williams. Scola and C.J. Watson will have to match their efforts in the second unit. Tonight’s X-factor is Indiana Pacers reserve Danny Granger. Atlanta does not have a wing threat like Granger coming off the bench and Indiana will look to him for extra scoring at Philips Arena. Tip time is 7:30 p.m. EST.
Tough to pick against the Pacers, but Indiana has struggled in the past against the Hawks. A road game on the second night of a back-to-back isn’t working in their favor. Atlanta snaps the Pacers 3-game winning streak with a 97-90 victory.