The roster-depleted Indiana Pacers will try to revive their playoff chances on Thursday when they host the surging Atlanta Hawks, who will be playing their final road game of the season.
The Hawks (37-30) have won three straight games since a spate of injuries contributed to a three-game losing streak. Since March 1, Atlanta is 23-10, the second-best record in the Eastern Conference over that time.
Indiana (30-36) lost 104-93 to the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday. The Pacers were done in by a season-high 22 turnovers, which led to 25 points. The Pacers, who had six players on the injured list, have lost two straight and dropped four of their last five.
The Pacers were without Myles Turner and T.J. Warren, both out with foot injuries, as well as Jeremy Lamb (left knee soreness), Edmond Sumner (left knee contusion), Malcolm Brogdon (right hamstring soreness) and JaKarr Sampson (concussion).
The Hawks are still without De’Andre Hunter (right knee soreness) and Cam Reddish (right Achilles soreness). Bogdan Bogdanovic continues to deal with a sore left hamstring but has played through the injury.
Indiana’s recent stumbles have brought more scrutiny upon rookie coach Nate Bjorkgren, who addressed the criticism head-on and accepted the blame.
“You know, I don’t make excuses for things,” Bjorkgren said. “I’m a young coach. I’m learning. I’m growing and I’m trying to be better. This is on me. I’m the head coach and fingers should be pointed at me. I love coaching this team and the relationships with these coaches and players. I’ve just got to keep getting better.”
This will be the third game between the two clubs this season and the first in Indianapolis. They split two games in Atlanta, with the Pacers winning 125-112 on Feb. 13 and the Hawks prevailing 129-117 on April 18. Indiana has won 12 of the last 15 contests and the Pacers have won every series since the 2014-15 season.
Atlanta’s second unit produced 74 points on Wednesday in a 135-103 win over the Phoenix Suns. Many of the players who had to be used as starters during the team’s injury-filled season are contributing big minutes now that the team’s starting lineup is getting healthy.
“I’m really impressed,” said Atlanta coach Nate McMillan. “They broke it open again for us. It’s good to get that combination going. It’s chemistry — and we have some healthy players, where we can get a flow with both units. They were great again.”
Rookie Onyeka Okongwu had perhaps his best all-around game with a career-high 14 points, seven rebounds and one blocked shot in 18 minutes. He continues to emerge as a reliable backup to starting center Clint Capela.
“I thought he was really the difference in the game (against Phoenix),” McMillan said.
No Atlanta starter played more than 26 minutes against Phoenix, none in the fourth quarter.
An interesting matchup could be between the two centers — Indiana’s Domantas Sabonis and Atlanta’s Capela. Sabonis averages 20.1 points, 11.9 rebounds and 6.3 assists and has seven triple doubles this season. Capela averages 15.3 points, 14.4 rebounds and 2.1 blocks and has 45 double-doubles.
–Field Level Media
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