The Indiana Pacers (35-30) and the Atlanta Hawks (37-29) are all squared up and ready for a showdown Sunday night at tthe Phillips Arena in the capital of Georgia. This will be the last meeting between the two teams of the season, and Indiana is leading the series 2-1 in what may turn out to be a very important game for seeding purposes. The Pacers were swept by the Charlotte Hornets and drew with the Miami Heat, so getting a win against the Hawks will draw them closer to a more secure spot in the playoff push.
The last matchup between these two teams was dominated down low by Paul Millsap and Al Horford during a 102-96 win for the Hawks. Millsap shot 10-14 from the floor for a solid 24 points while Al Horford chipped in 21 of his own. Paul George kept the Pacers in the game with a strong 31 points and seven three-pointers and Lavoy Allen had a 13 point, 14 rebound double-double, but their efforts weren’t matched by the rest of the team.
The Pacers were without starting center Ian Mahimni on the night and his presence in the middle was missed. With the big Frenchman back anchoring the middle with Rookie of the Year candidate Myles Turner, Millsap will probably default back to jump shooting in order to lure out young Myles, while Horford will bang down low with Ian and Jordan Hill.
The Pacers are coming off two strong wins against the San Antonio Spurs and Dallas Mavericks, both playoff teams in the Western Conference. The win last night against Dallas was led by Monta Ellis, who put up 17 points and 7 assists for the boys in blue and gold. Paul George had a solid 20 point, 10 rebound night and George Hill hit 3 momentum-shifting threes in the 4th quarter to push the game away from Dallas.
Dirk Nowitzki put in a vintage 30 point night, but the rest of the starters were outplayed by Indiana. A great moment happened late in the game when Dallas set up an out-of-bounds play near the scorers’ table with 20 seconds to go. Recognizing the call, Monta Ellis barked out the movements and re-organized the defense to stop the Deron Williams drive and close out the game.
The Pacers have been lucky in the previous games with Atlanta this season. Kyle Korver has been ice cold against the Pacers and his lackluster defense will open up the lane for both Monta and George Hill, which ever one they hide him on.
Expect Indiana to continue feeding Paul George from this point on in season, as his form has caught up to his pre-slump figures. Do not expect his November numbers for a large stretch again, but his shot is smooth and he’s gotten better at controlling his emotions down the stretch. The Hawks and Pacers also put on a great show for the respective crowds and the two should put on a similar on Sunday.