Hawks-Pacers Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated March 06, 2012
The banged-up Atlanta Hawks hope the success they had on their recent homestand will carry over to the road, where things have not gone well of late. A return home might be just what the Indiana Pacers need to bounce back from their first defeat in almost three weeks. Looking for a third straight victory overall, the Hawks face another difficult challenge when they try to avoid a season-high fourth consecutive road loss Tuesday night against the Indiana Pacers. Atlanta (22-15) is coming off a 3-1 homestand that concluded with Saturday's 97-90 win over Western Conference-leading Oklahoma City. The Hawks played Saturday's game without Joe Johnson (knee) and Willie Green (back), but Josh Smith matched a season high with 30 points and pulled down 12 rebounds as Atlanta held the Thunder to 15 fourth-quarter points. "I'm an emotional guy,'' said Smith, who had 24 points and 19 rebounds in a 99-94 victory over Milwaukee on Friday. "I'm the emotional leader of this basketball team and whenever we can make some defensive stops and put them together, that definitely has to get you fired up.'' Smith averaged 22.5 points and 13.3 rebounds on the homestand to help the Hawks get by without Johnson (17.6 points per game), who could sit out for the fifth time in six games Tuesday. "We need (Smith) to be that impact player, particularly with his energy,'' coach Larry Drew said. "We can feed off his energy. When he's playing like that, you can see the rest of the guys step their level of play up.'' Smith has been somewhat less effective during Atlanta's three-game road skid averaging 14.7 points and 9.7 boards. The Hawks have averaged 79.3 points on 40.4 percent shooting in those contests. Smith had 28 points and 12 rebounds Feb. 8 in a 97-87 home win over the Pacers (23-13). He finished with 16 points and seven boards Jan. 11 in a 96-84 loss at Indiana, where the Hawks have dropped two in a row and 17 of their last 22 visits. The Pacers have won four in a row overall at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, improving to 11-4 at home on the season. However, they'll now look to bounce back after their season-high six-game overall winning streak was snapped Monday with a 92-72 loss at Eastern Conference-leading Chicago. Paul George scored 21 points but Indiana shot just 34.2 percent from the field, including 3 of 16 from 3-point range, while being held to its fewest points of the season. The Pacers led by three two minutes into the second half, before the Bulls went on a 20-4 run en route to handing Indiana its first defeat since a 98-87 loss at Cleveland on Feb. 15. "We definitely got stagnant,'' said forward Danny Granger, who had 11 points - more than seven below his season average. "They picked up their intensity." Despite the loss and looming games at Miami and Orlando this weekend, the Pacers remain confident. "We feel good about the way we're playing," Granger said. Granger has averaged 26.6 points while shooting 52.4 percent in his last five home games versus Atlanta.
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