Pacers, Hawks meet for first time
ATLANTA — The Indiana Pacers will have a different mindset than the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday when the clubs meet for the first time this season.
The Pacers are coming off a difficult last-second loss to the Boston Celtics and have dropped three of their past four games. The Hawks held on to beat the Miami Heat on Monday, ending a four-game losing streak, and they will be trying to win back-to-back games for the first time this season.
Indiana (17-14) trailed the Celtics by as many as 19 on Monday, mounted a spirited second-half comeback and led by five in the waning moments. However, Boston’s Terry Rozier stole a bad pass from Bojan Bogdanovic and turned it into the game-winning dunk with 1.9 seconds left.
“It’s a tough loss,” Indiana’s Victor Oladipo said. “We dug ourselves the deepest hole you can imagine and fought our way back like clockwork, but we came up short again. We just have to continue to get better.”
Indiana’s Lance Stephenson added, “Everybody makes mistakes. We’ve got to watch the film, learn from it and be ready to play Atlanta.”
Oladipo, who had 38 points against Boston, leads the Pacers with an average of 25.5 points per game. He has scored 20-plus points in 22 of 30 games and has averaged 14.9 points in 12 career games against Atlanta.
Atlanta (7-23) led banged-up Miami by as many as 14 in the second half, but the Heat trimmed the deficit to one point in the final minute before a couple of clutch buckets by Kent Bazemore put the game away.
The Hawks, who have struggled to score this season, got 24 points from second-year forward Taurean Prince on Monday. It was his third 20-point game of the season, the second in the last four games, and matched his career high.
“We’re wanting him to shoot a lot — catch and shoot, shoot whenever he’s got daylight, driving and finishing,” Atlanta coach Mike Budenholzer said.
Prince is making 41 percent of his 3-point attempts and is averaging 12.8 points.
Three-point shooting could be on display Wednesday, as that is a strength for both teams. Indiana ranks first in the NBA with 38.9 percent on 3-point attempts. Atlanta is No. 6 at 38.3 percent.
Indiana won two of three games against Atlanta last season, including the final two meetings of the year. Until last season, the Pacers had not won in Atlanta since the 2013-14 campaign. The clubs won’t meet again until Feb. 23 in Indianapolis; they then will play three times over a 15-day period.
Atlanta continues to be without forward Mike Muscala (left ankle) and center Dewayne Dedmon (left tibia). The Hawks are working around back problems that have limited forward Luke Babbitt, and rookie center John Collins is easing his way back into the rotation after missing six games with a sprained left AC joint.
Other than Glenn Robinson III, who continues to rehab from left ankle surgery, the Pacers should be at full strength.