Indiana looks to secure the series tiebreaker over Atlanta with a win
POSTED: Mar 13, 2016 11:49 AM ET
A lot is on the line for Atlanta and Indiana as they match up for the final time this regular season.
Only six games separate the No. 3 seed from the No. 9 seed in the crowded Eastern Conference playoff picture. Atlanta and Indiana are in the middle of the pack as the Hawks hold a 1.5-game lead over the No. 7 seed Pacers. Indiana enters with a 2-1 series lead over Atlanta, so a win tonight would lock up the tie-breaker for the Pacers and move them to within a half game of the No. 6 seed. In their last matchup, the Hawks were powered by Paul Millsap, who scored 24 points in the 102-96 home win. Expect the Hawks to be extremely motivated tonight as they look to build off this performance and extend their lead over Indiana in the standings.
The Pacers enter on a three-game win streak after playing some of their best basketball of the season to secure wins over Washington, San Antonio and Dallas. Paul George and Monta Ellis have led the charge for Indiana during this stretch, with rookie Myles Turner also providing steady offensive production. In two games against the Hawks this season, Turner is averaging 16.0 points on 54.0 percent shooting, 6.5 rebounds and 1.0 blocks in 24.5 minutes. Indiana will hope to get similar production from Turner tonight as they look to attack the glass against the Hawks, who are the second-worst rebounding team in the league.
Both Atlanta and Indiana enter in the top three in defensive rating on the season, with the Hawks at No. 2 and the Pacers at No. 3. The Hawks have played the best defense in the league since Jan. 1 as they allow a remarkable 96.9 points per 100 possessions. Unlike some other teams in the top 10 of defensive rating, both Indiana and Atlanta play their elite defense at a high tempo and respectively rank 9th and 12th in pace. This mix of defense and pace should combine to create an electric game between two teams who know how much a win tonight could affect their playoff seeding a month from now.
NBA.com staff reports