Hawks going for 4th straight as they host hot Pacers

The Atlanta Hawks shoot for a season-long four-game winning streak on Wednesday night, but they’ll have to do it against the Indiana Pacers, one of the hottest teams in the Eastern Conference.

Atlanta (9-23) hosts the Pacers on the heels of their 98-95 win over Detroit, which gave the young Hawks their third straight victory. Indiana (22-12) has won two straight and nine of its last 11 after beating Washington 105-89 on Sunday.

The Hawks survived against the Pistons, despite being without John Collins, the team’s leading scorer (18.5 points) and rebounder (9.9). The second-year forward missed the game with a left ankle sprain and will be re-evaluated on Wednesday morning. Collins has posted a double-double in eight of his last nine games.

With Collins ailing, the Hawks were able to lean on veteran Vince Carter. He scored a season-high 18 points and helped offset the loss of production provided by Collins.

It also helped that center Alex Len produced 15 points and a season-high 17 rebounds and partnered with fellow center Dewayne Dedmon (11 points, five rebounds) to produce dominance on the boards.

“We were missing John, so we had a unique opportunity to start two centers,” Atlanta coach Lloyd Pierce said. “Alex embraced it and took advantage of it.”

Dedmon said, “The OG, Vince Carter, put down the walker. He dropped it and had a big game. So did Alex, because we needed people to step up and replace John.”

The Atlanta duo will have its hands full against the Pacers. Indiana had a season-high 57 rebounds against the Wizards on Sunday and has had 50-plus rebounds in six of the last 10 games. But coach Nate McMillan said the team needs to focus on ball security. Indiana ranks 17th in the NBA with 15.0 turnovers per game.

“We are still turning the ball over too many times,” McMillan said. “(Against Washington) we just got careless in the fourth quarter. You have to play the game for 48 minutes.”

The game will be a homecoming for Indiana’s Thaddeus Young, who played at Georgia Tech. Young was named Eastern Conference Player of the Week for the second time in his career after posting three straight double-doubles and averaged 18.8 points, 9.8 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 1.8 steals during a 4-0 week.

Indiana’s scoring depth is led by guard Victor Oladipo, who averages a team-high 20.2 points, 6.4 rebounds and 5.3 assists. Oladipo played only four minutes in the last game with Atlanta after succumbing to a sore left knee.

Indiana has played without Tyreke Evans (bruised right knee) for the last two games. Atlanta’s Omari Spellman (right hip) is getting close to a return; the first-round draft pick has missed eight games.

This is the second of four meetings between the two teams. The Pacers won 97-89 on Nov. 17 and have won the last three meetings and six of the last seven against Atlanta. In an odd scheduling twist, they will meet again on New Year’s Eve in Indianapolis.