Date: January 8, 2014
Tip-Off Time: 7:30 PM ET
TV Channel: SportSouth (Local in Atlanta), NBA League Pass
Radio: 92.9 FM (Atlanta Flagship), Atlanta Hawks Radio Network Affiliates
Live Stream: League Pass Broadband
The Indiana Pacers are in town to face the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday night, and in all fairness, this is not the team that any Hawks fan wants to see right now. Atlanta has lost three straight games, punctuated by a tough defeat in Brooklyn on Monday night, and Indiana is currently the best team in the East with a 28-6 record.
In addition to their sparkling record, the Pacers also lead the NBA in net rating, scoring 9.1 points per 100 possessions more than they allow, and the hallmark of that is their incredibly impressive defense. Indy leads the league in defense by a wide margin at 92.9 points allowed per 100, and they are anchored by two of the best defensive players in the game in Roy Hibbert and Paul George. Hibbert is an absolute terror in the paint, placing 2nd in the league in blocked shots and leading the league in the unofficial tally of “shots altered” while using his massive 7-foot-2 frame. George is one of the best perimeter defenders in the league as well, and he’ll likely be a thorn in the side of all of Atlanta’s wings.
Speaking of wings, Kyle Korver continues to roll on, as the sharpshooting wing has tallied a made three-pointer in 104 consecutive games. However, Korver’s numbers have dipped considerably since Al Horford hit the shelf (hat-tip to Lang Greene of HoopsWorld), as he is only averaging 8.3 points per game with 29% shooting from beyond the arc in those 6 games. In addition to that roadblock, Indiana’s defense is (obviously) quite good overall, and they are even better against the 3-ball, leading the league in both threes allowed per game (5.6) and three-point percentage allowed (32.1%). It probably won’t be easy for Kyle tonight, but if anybody can keep it going, it’s him.
Indiana, unfortunately, isn’t just a defensive team anymore, either, as they’ve really made strides on the other end. They are still a “middle of the pack” team in terms of efficiency, but George has risen up the ranks as an MVP candidate based on his offense (22.9 points per game) and they get balanced contributions from their other starters in David West, Lance Stephenson, and George Hill.
On the Hawks side, the offense has struggled considerably since Horford’s injury, and that is shown through the numbers. Atlanta is in the bottom-10 of the league in offense (98.0 points per 100) in their last 6 games, and against Indy, the sledding doesn’t get any easier. For Atlanta to have any chance of sustained offensive success, Jeff Teague (and/or Shelvin Mack/Lou Williams) need to be effective in creating off the dribble, and Paul Millsap must soundly outplay his very capable counterpart, David West, for the duration of the game.
The Las Vegas point spread is interesting in this match-up, as the Pacers are currently a 4.5-point favorite in the game. That certainly isn’t a “knock” on the Hawks, although it may seem that way, simply because Indiana is playing some of the best basketball in the entire league right now, and without Al Horford (again), it will be a huge challenge for Atlanta on both ends in dealing with Roy Hibbert, Paul George, and company.
Stay tuned for updates throughout the night, and a full recap to follow.