The Indiana Pacers did fine initially without David West, but the power forward's absence may be starting to catch up to them.
It's hard to say, though, how missing West will affect Monday night's matchup with an Atlanta Hawks team seeking a third straight road victory.
Indiana (43-27) won its first three games without the power forward before falling 87-84 at Chicago on Saturday. West, second on the Pacers with 17.3 points per game, will miss his fifth straight contest Monday due to a sprained lower back.
"Definitely so when David's in, he's somebody we go to late in the games and that's something that we'll always miss, win or lose, but still, we've been playing well in David's absence," leading scorer Paul George said.
Tyler Hansbrough is replacing West in the starting lineup. Hansbrough averaged 18.0 points and 12.3 rebounds in the first three games of this stretch before the Bulls limited him to seven and six.
Oddly enough, West averaged 24.5 points in two defeats to Atlanta (39-31) this season while he only scored 15 in a 114-103 victory Feb. 5.
The home team has won all three meetings, but the Hawks are in a confident mood after opening a four-game trip with Sunday's 104-99 victory over Milwaukee. Atlanta closed on a 9-1 run for its fifth win in seven games.
"Playing on the road, you have to bring a certain mentality and I thought we did that tonight," coach Larry Drew said. "We did enough to come out with a win."
Al Horford's string of six straight double-doubles ended, but the big man was still outstanding with 24 points, seven rebounds and six assists. Josh Smith had 23 points.
"It shows a lot of toughness from our team,' Horford said. "It is important, obviously. They are in the hunt, like we are. We want to position ourselves in the best scenario that we can. We've done the job."
Horford is averaging 17.0 points on 66.7 percent shooting in the season series against Indiana. He fouled out in the lone defeat and totaled three fouls in the victories.
Hawks guard Devin Harris went to the locker room midway through the fourth quarter Sunday with an injured left foot and did not return. Drew said Atlanta would evaluate Harris, who has missed two of three meetings with the Pacers, on Monday.
The coach also indicated that he will go back to DeShawn Stevenson, who sat out Sunday. Stevenson is not being used in back-to-back situations and Drew preferred to use him against the Pacers' bigger perimeter players.
Stevenson can expect to see some action against George, who had 23 points and 11 rebounds on Saturday but made 1 of 6 3-pointers.
"It just wasn't my night," said George, who is shooting 25.0 percent on 3s over his last six games. "I couldn't really get into a rhythm outside the 3-point line.'
The Pacers continue to lead the NBA in defensive field-goal percentage at 41.4, but the Hawks have connected at 47.6 percent in the season series.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
All Rights Reserved