Hawks host Pacers as both angle for playoff positioning
The Indiana Pacers and host Atlanta Hawks will have their long-range vision set on the Eastern Conference standings when they meet on Sunday.
Both teams are in the playoff hunt, but the teams in the race are bunched so tightly that one win or one loss could make a huge difference in the standings.
"We need these games," said Atlanta veteran Solomon Hill. "It's going to be a dogfight all the way through."
The Hawks are trying to make the playoffs for the first time since 2017. They're also trying to nail down home-court advantage for the first round. Atlanta had its three-game winning streak broken on Thursday with a 120-109 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks but has won seven of its past nine games.
Indiana lost to the Western Conference-leading Utah Jazz 119-111 on Friday but has been playing well. The Pacers have won five of their past eight games. The Pacers, who have won five of their past seven road games, will wrap up a three-game trip against the Hawks.
This will be the second meeting between the two teams this season. The Pacers won the first contest 125-113 on Feb. 13 in Atlanta, when Doug McDermott scored 26 points. Indiana has won 12 of the past 14 meetings with the Hawks.
McDermott might not be available on Sunday. He has missed two straight games with an ankle sprain. A similar injury has kept Myles Turner out of the lineup for six straight games.
The Hawks got leading scorer Trae Young back on Thursday. He had missed two games with a left-calf contusion but was not in good form upon his return. Young scored 15 points but shot just 3-of-17 from the field as he was tightly marked by the Milwaukee defense.
Atlanta could get Danilo Gallinari back on Sunday. He has missed three straight with right foot soreness. The Hawks continue to play without three starters -- John Collins (left-ankle sprain), De'Andre Hunter (right knee-soreness) and Cam Reddish (right Achilles soreness).
Indiana had a hard time slowing Utah's perimeter shooting on Friday. Three different Utah players connected for three 3-pointers. That has been an issue all season for the Pacers, who rank 20th in the league in 3-point defense (37.4 percent).
"We weren't as forceful into ball screens and transition defense," Indiana coach Nate Bjorkgren said. "Their 3s were too free and easy, way too many of them there in the second half."
Indiana has a pair of outstanding guards in Malcolm Brogdon, who grew up in the Atlanta suburbs, and Caris LeVert.
Brogdon is averaging 21.2 points and 5.9 assists and has scored 30-plus points four times this season, a feat he had accomplished only three times combined over his first four NBA seasons. LeVert is averaging 18.5 points and 4.9 assists.
With some of its primary scorers out, the Hawks have been boosted by Bogdan Bogdanovic, who scored 28 in the loss to Milwaukee and has led the team in scoring in four of the past five games. The veteran has been especially deadly from distance, hitting 41 3-pointers since April 1.
--Field Level Media
Updated April 17, 2021