Tonight's game will serve as the rubber match between the Hawks and Pacers, as the teams split the two previous meetings this season. Indiana's win, a 96-84 victory on January 11, was a turning point of sorts for the Hawks season, as it was the game that Al Horford sustained his pectoral injury that will cause him to miss at least a majority of the remaining season. Atlanta pulled even with a 97-87 home win on February 8.
The Pacers' six-game winning streak was emphatically halted on Monday night in Chicago as they dropped a 92-72 decision to the Bulls. The winning streak could be misleading as Indiana was taking advantage of a soft portion of the schedule. (The six opponents had a combined winning percentage of .323.) In actuality, the Pacers have not beaten a team with a winning record since defeating Utah at home on February 7.
>> Hawks - Al Horford (pectoral muscle) and Jason Collins (elbow) are both out. Joe Johnson (knee) and Willie Green (back) are both day-to-day. Tracy McGrady (knee) and Jerry Stackhouse (stomach virus) are not on the official injury report at the moment, but could be questionable for tonight.
>> Pacers - Jeff Foster (sore lower back) is out.
Keys to the Game:
POWER FORWARD PRODUCTION
David West was a key acquisition for the Pacers this past offseason. While his numbers may not jump off of the stat sheet (12.4 ppg, 7.0 rpg), his toughness and leadership appear to have made an immediate impact on this year's Indiana team.
Speaking of numbers that DO jump off the stat sheet, the Hawks' Josh Smith is coming off of back-to-back monster performances. It is not a coincidence that the Hawks are now 11-0 when Smoove scores over 20 points. While Josh's offense has keyed many wins this season, it will always be his defensive energy that spreads to his teammate and triggers Atlanta's best basketball.
Atlanta is 14-0 this season when shooting 45% or better from the field. When the Hawks move the ball on offense and create shots in the paint or wide open jump shots they keep their opponents from getting out in transition and shoot a higher percentage. On top of that, Kirk Hinrich and Vladimir Radmanovic both seemed to break of of recent shooting slumps this past weekend. Atlanta is currently 5th in the league in 3FG%, a weapon that will be that much more important as they try to compensate for players that are out with injuries.
- Jeff Teague was born and raised near Indianapolis and attended local Pike High School. Jeff averaged 22 points per game during his senior season, leading the Red Devils to a 20-5 record.
- Hawks assistant coach Lester Conner was an assistant with the Pacers from 2007-2010.