The Atlanta Hawks look to extend an NBA best six-game winning streak while visiting the Indiana Pacers tonight at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Indiana comes into the contest struggling of late, having lost three-of-four.
One of the main catalysts for the Pacers’ recent 1-3 skid has been the slumping performance of All-NBA performer Paul George. This season, the 25 year-old star has averaged an impressive 24.8 points, 7.7 rebounds, 4 assists and 1.6 steals per contest. However, George’s numbers have fallen off considerably in his past four outings. This precipitous drop off includes declined averages of 16.5 points, 5.3 turnovers and 29 percent shooting from the field.
During this 1-3 stretch, Indiana’s team averages have taken a nosedive as well. Overall, the Pacers rank sixth in the NBA in points allowed at 98.7 per contest. The team is seventh in points scored per outing at 102.7. But over their past four, those numbers have declined to 96 points scored and 99.5 yielded.
It’s fair to state that Indiana is struggling as a unit heading into Monday night’s tilt.
Conversely, the Hawks have been the Eastern Conference’s hottest team for two weeks. Atlanta has outscored their opponents by an 11.2 margin during an impressive winning streak. The Hawks’ offense has exploded during this prolific run, increasing from 101.9 points scored per game to 111.5.
Atlanta’s fine bench play has sparked the team’s recent run of success. Mike Scott has averaged 13.8 points over his past four outings, compared to 6.6 for the season. Thabo Sefolosha is shooting the ball at a 66 percent clip over his past six. However, most impressive of all is the play of super-sub Dennis Schröder. Schröder has greatly improved his shooting line to a praise-worthy 50/47/82 clip over his last six. The third-year man is sporting a plus-10.3 combined with improved raw numbers of 14 points, 4.8 assists and 1.7 steals in 21.8 minutes per game.
The Hawks enter the Indiana contest as the Eastern Conference’s only 20-game winner at 20-12. Atlanta is just one game back of Cleveland for the Conference’s top honors. At 17-12 Indiana is sixth in the east and 2.5 games back of Cleveland.
Injury report and probable starting lineups
The Hawks will face Indiana minus the services of Tiago Splitter (ankle). The Pacers will be without forward/center Myles Turner (thumb).
- Point Guard: Jeff Teague
- Shooting Guard: Kyle Korver
- Small Forward: Kent Bazemore
- Power Forward: Paul Millsap
- Center: Al Horford
- Point Guard: George Hill
- Shooting Guard: Monta Ellis
- Small Forward: C.J. Miles
- Power Forward: Paul George
- Center: Ian Mahinmi
Atlanta’s keys to victory
-Limit Paul George’s easy touches. The Hawks would do well to utilize the same strategy for guarding a struggling George as the team employed against Carmelo Anthony in the second half of their romp over New York on Saturday.
-Don’t allow Monta Ellis to go off. Kyle Korver gives 110 percent effort on every possession, but at 34 and coming off a severe ankle injury, the 2015 All-Star simply doesn’t have the lateral quickness to stay in front of Ellis. Coach Budenholzer should game plan accordingly for this speed mismatch.
-Contain Indy from deep. Indiana is one of the better 3-point shooting teams in the league. Conversely, Atlanta is seventh worst in the NBA opponent’s 3-point field goal percentage at 36.5. The Pacers rank fourth in the league in 3-point field goal percentage and eighth in 3-pointers made per game.
It behooves the Hawks to run Indiana’s outside threats off the circle tonight.
Odds and ends
After playing three straight at Philips, Atlanta’s next three outings will be on the road. The Pacers have played three of their last four away from home. The Hawks’ 8-6 road record is third best in the Eastern Conference. Indiana sports the conference’s second best home record at 10-4.
Atlanta vs. Indiana will air at 7 PM ET on Fox Sports Southeast.