Pacers-Hawks Preview

Danny Granger is one of the keys to the Indiana Pacers’ success

this season.

A gutsy effort may have boosted his chances to being named to

the All-Star game.

Granger will try to keep the Pacers surging with another strong

effort against the struggling Atlanta Hawks as they try to win at

Philips Arena for the first time in over five years Wednesday

night.

Granger is averaging 18.2 points to lead Indiana (17-7), which

is second in the Central Division, 2 1/2 games behind first-place

Chicago.

The forward’s 22.0 points per game is a big reason for the

Pacers winning five of their last six, during which they’ve

averaged 104.6 points in those victories – 10.1 higher than their

season average.

Granger overcame some sluggishness to score 12 of his 16 points

in the fourth quarter to pace a 104-99 win over Utah on Tuesday. He

struggled after taking medicine to help him get some rest.

“It just slowed me down basically the whole time,” Granger said.

“It was supposed to help me sleep, but it kept me groggy the whole

day. I was waiting for it to wear off and I started the game and I

still was kind of groggy.

“No more of that medicine. I took some bad medication.”

Granger’s efforts may be rewarded with a spot in the All-Star

game in Orlando later this month. He appeared in the 2009 contest,

and will find out Thursday if he’ll go to a second one.

Coach Frank Vogel has been actively campaigning for his

players.

“We’ve sent emails out and make phone calls and we definitely

want the coaches around the league to understand the sacrifices our

guys have made to buy into the team approach and how it’s led to

winning,” Vogel said. “And particularly the things we’ve done on

the defensive end. I don’t want that to go unnoticed.”

Granger may further reinforce his coach’s beliefs against the

Hawks (16-9). He made 9 of 16 from the field – 3 of 5 from beyond

the arc – scored 24 points in a 96-84 win over them Jan. 11.

Indiana, though, has lost eight in a row at Atlanta since a win

Dec. 22, 2006.

The Pacers may be visiting Philips Arena at an opportune time

since the Hawks are trying to avoid being swept in a four-game

homestand after starting 8-1 there.

They haven’t endured such a slide as host since dropping a four

in a row from March 21-April 1, 2007.

They’re averaging 84.7 points over the last three games and

coming off a 99-90 loss Tuesday to Phoenix.

Part of Atlanta’s troubles stem from injuries to center Al

Horford (torn left pectoral muscle) and backup Jason Collins

(sprained left elbow). Horford got hurt against the Pacers earlier

in January and is out for three months, while Collins is sidelined

for at least two weeks.

The Hawks could also use some increased production from Joe

Johnson, the team leader with 18.6 points per game.

The swingman is averaging 14.3 points during the homestand,

potentially hurting his chances at being named to a sixth All-Star

game. He had 15 points at Indiana on Jan. 11, but is averaging 23.8

in nine career meetings in Atlanta, with the Hawks winning eight of

them.