Countdown to Tipoff: Hawks at Pacers 120111
Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2012 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, 7 p.m.
Countdown to Tipoff: Pacers (6-3) vs. Hawks (7-3)
By Conrad Brunner
SCOUTING THE PACERS: Coming off a 96-86 loss in Philadelphia Monday, the Pacers hope to bounce back at home, where they're 3-0. Much will hinge on the status of Danny Granger, who missed the last game with food poisoning; George Hill, who sat out with a sore lower back; and Tyler Hansbrough, who left late in the third quarter after sustaining a scratch to his right eye. Granger scored 28 when the Pacers snapped a nine-game losing streak against the Hawks with a 114-102 win on April 8, 2011. Roy Hibbert has come on strong, racking up 39 points on 17 of 28 shooting (.607) in the last two games and backup center Jeff Foster has been a big help off the bench, totaling nine points and 15 rebounds in 42 minutes in three games since returning from a sore lower back. But the offense continues to struggle for consistency. Wings Granger and Paul George have combined to shoot .297 inside the 3-point line but .447 from beyond the arc, which encapsulates the team's issues. Indiana ranks 27th in the NBA in shooting percentage (.407) but third on 3-pointers (.402). The magic number thus far has been 90; when the Pacers reach that figure, they're 5-0. They're also 5-0 when winning the battle of the boards.
SCOUTING THE HAWKS: An athletic, aggressive team much like Philadelphia that has given the Pacers fits for years, the Hawks bring a three-game win streak into the game. You could look at their record, consider the three victories over New Jersey, and shrug. And you might be right, because the Hawks are a tad schizophrenic. They beat the full-strength Heat on the road, and then a few days later lost in triple-overtime to a Miami team without LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. Missing forward Marvin Williams, out with a sprained ankle, the Hawks simply plugged Vladimir Radmanovic into the starting lineup in Monday's 106-101 victory in New Jersey and he scored 14 and made four 3-pointers. Josh Smith continued his recent binge with 26 points, six rebounds, four assists and three steals, while Joe Johnson (22 points) and Jeff Teague (20) also came up big. Teague has taken over the starting point guard role and is flourishing with averages of 11.9 points, 5.6 assists and 2.1 steals. The Hawks' bench is thin, though they are getting solid contributions from Tracy McGrady (8.4 points, 3.9 rebounds, 2.0 assists in 19.4 minutes).
KEY MATCHUP: After a slow start, Smith now is one of the hottest players in the league. In the last three games he has averaged 24.7 points, 8.0 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 3.3 steals and 2.67 blocked shots while shooting .653 from the field. He is too athletic for most traditional power forwards and too strong for most traditional small forwards and so how the Pacers handle this particular matchup nightmare could go a long way toward determining the outcome of the game.
QUOTE MARKS: "Just pure athleticism. Their frontcourt with (Al) Horford and Josh Smith and then you've got Joe Johnson, one of the most efficient players in the game. And our local guy Teague is playing really well for them. They're playing great. Larry Drew is doing a great job with that team and it's going to be very formidable." - Pacers Coach Frank Vogel on the Hawks
INJURY REPORT: For the Pacers, F Danny Granger (food poisoning), F Tyler Hansbrough (scratched R eye) and G George Hill (sore lower back) are day to day. For the Hawks, F Marvin Williams (L ankle) and G Kirk Hinrich (L shoulder surgery) are out.
TICKETS: Buy now | College Night | Vote for 6 Pacers, Get $6 Tickets
BROADCAST INFO: The game will be telecast at 7 p.m. on Fox Sports Indiana with Chris Denari and Quinn Buckner calling the game with Brooke Olzendam hosting the pre-game show at 6:30. The radio broadcast is anchored by the flagship of the Pacers' network, WIBC 93 FM, featuring Mark Boyle and Bobby "Slick" Leonard, with Kevin Lee reporting.
INTERACT: You can get in-game commentary from this group of Pacers personalities throughout the game on Twitter.