Hot-shooting Hawks look to tame Pacers' defense

Hot-shooting Hawks look to tame Pacers' defense

Published Jan. 10, 2012 12:15 p.m. ET

The Indiana Pacers have been one of the league's better defensive teams this season, but that wasn't the case their last time out.

Facing the hot-shooting Atlanta Hawks could make it difficult for the Pacers to get back on track at their end of the court.

Indiana goes for its first 4-0 start at home in nine seasons when they face a Hawks team trying to win its season-best fourth in a row Wednesday night.

The Pacers (6-3) are among the league leaders in scoring defense at 90.0 points per game and field-goal percentage defense at 42.0, but they lost 96-86 at Philadelphia on Monday as the 76ers made half of their 76 shots.

Indiana defeated its previous two opponents - Boston and Charlotte - by holding them to averages of 75.5 points and 35.5 percent from the floor.

"We didn't defend at a high enough level," coach Frank Vogel said after Monday's defeat.

That hasn't been a problem for the Pacers at home, where they are giving up 82.3 points and holding opponents to 35.7 percent shooting.

Indiana last opened 4-0 on its home court in 2002-03 when it started 7-0.

Moving closer to tying that mark could be a challenge for the Pacers as they begin their three-game season series against the Hawks (7-3). Atlanta has hit 55.3 percent from the field in its last two games while going 18 for 33 from 3-point range.

Josh Smith has made 65.3 percent of his shots while averaging 24.7 points during the team's winning streak. He scored a season-high 26 and shot 10 of 14 in a 106-101 victory at New Jersey on Monday.

"I'm just starting off aggressively and setting the tempo for me and my teammates," Smith said. "I'm getting into the flow of the offense more and getting better shots."

Smith was sidelined with a sprained right knee the last time these teams played, a 114-102 Pacers home victory April 8 that ended Atlanta's nine-game win streak in the series.

The Hawks had won three in a row at Indiana.

Danny Granger, who led the Pacers with 28 points the last time Atlanta was in town, is scoring 26.2 per game and shooting 53.2 percent in his last six home contests against the Hawks.

The veteran forward, however, is questionable for Wednesday after missing Monday's game with food poisoning.

Indiana could also be without forward Tyler Hansbrough after he left the game against the Nets with a scratched eye.

"We are a pro team, so if one person doesn't show up, the rest of us need to step up and play," said center Roy Hibbert, who has recorded a team-high 39 points with 16 rebounds in the last two games.

The Hawks will likely be without forward Marvin Williams for a second straight game after he sprained his left ankle in a 109-94 victory over Chicago on Saturday.

Without Williams, Vladimir Radmanovic made his first start of the season Monday, scoring 14 points and going 4 of 11 from 3-point range. He is 11 for 20 from beyond the arc during the Hawks' winning streak.

Atlanta's starting backcourt of Joe Johnson and Jeff Teague is averaging a combined 30.7 points, 50.6 percent shooting and 12.7 assists during the winning streak.

Teague, an Indianapolis native, scored 21 points - his most in 72 career road games - on April 8.