The Indiana Pacers haven't impressed on the offensive end with Danny Granger sidelined, but they're getting plenty of rebounds and second-chance points to go along with their hard-nosed defense.
Rarely has any of that made a difference when the Pacers have visited Atlanta.
Playing its fifth game in eight nights, Indiana will try to avoid losing a 10th straight game at Philips Arena on Wednesday.
The Pacers' leading scorer each of the last five seasons, Granger had yet to suit up this season due to a left knee injury, and word came down early Wednesday that he'd likely be out another three months. The team issued a statement saying Dr. James Andrews treated the forward's patellar tendinosis with an injection Tuesday, and Granger now seems unlikely to return until sometime near the All-Star break.
Indiana has spread the ball around nicely through four games without him, as seven players are averaging between 7.5 and 16.8 points.
The Pacers (2-2), though, are averaging 91.0 points and hitting 40.1 percent from the field - toward the bottom of the NBA in both categories. They shot a season-low 34.2 percent in Monday's 101-79 loss at San Antonio.
However, the team is among the league's best in field-goal percentage defense (38.9), total rebounds (53.3 per game), offensive boards (15.3) and second-chance points (15.0).
"And they're a good post-up team," Hawks assistant Lester Conner told the team's official website. "They'll post 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5. They'll even post up their point guard in George Hill. If they think they have a mismatch with (Atlanta guards) Lou Williams or Jeff Teague, they'll run him to the box. So again, rebound the basketball and defend their post ups."
Smith should play a big role in that effort, having led Atlanta (1-1) in rebounds and blocks last season. He sprained his right ankle in Friday's 109-102 season-opening loss to Houston and missed Sunday's game in Oklahoma City.
The Hawks, though, showed they can crash the boards without Smith, turning 12 offensive rebounds into 16 points in an unlikely 104-95 win over the Thunder. Al Horford recorded half of those offensive boards and finished with 12 overall along with 23 points - both team highs.
"If we give that type of effort against Indiana on Wednesday night, we'll be pretty good," Conner said.
Despite Horford's outstanding performance Sunday, the Hawks will be thrilled to have Smith back to face the Pacers. They've won 11 of the past 12 meetings when Smith has played as he's averaged 22.4 points. Smith totaled 55 points in the final two matchups last season as Atlanta won both, including a 97-87 victory Feb. 8 in Indiana's only visit to Philips Arena.
The Pacers have dropped nine in a row in Atlanta since a 100-90 victory Dec. 22, 2006.
Horford's matchup with Roy Hibbert could be key. Indiana's All-Star center has totaled 26 points, 19 rebounds and 11 blocks in two wins this season, compared to nine points, 12 boards and two blocks in two losses.
Atlanta also could use another big game from Williams, who leads the team with 20.5 points per game. The former Philadelphia guard's 27 fourth-quarter points are 19 more than any other Hawk, including 14 on Sunday when Atlanta outscored the Thunder by eight.
"I thought the ball swung around a lot tonight, which shows the growth that this team has displayed over the past couple of games. Hopefully, that'll be something we can bottle up and use in the future," Williams said.
The Pacers, meanwhile, have seen their assist total drop in each game. Indiana had 11 assists and 19 turnovers Monday in their worst offensive and defensive performance of the season.
"We turned the ball over a lot. We didn't get open shots," Hibbert told the league's official website after committing three turnovers and shooting 1 for 7.
The Associated Press News Service
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