Pacers-Hawks Preview

(AP) — 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.