After a fast start, the Atlanta Hawks are suddenly struggling defensively. They've been struggling at Indiana for a while.The Hawks look to snap a three-game losing streak and beat the Pacers for the first time in nearly three years when the teams meet Tuesday night.
Atlanta (6-3) has stumbled since a 6-0 start, with poor defense largely to blame. The Hawks allowed an average of 85.8 points in their first five games, but have given up more than 100 in their last four.
"We've lost some of our defensive swagger, intensity or whatever you want to call it," Atlanta coach Mike Woodson said.
The Hawks were swept in a home-and-home series with New Jersey, losing 119-107 at Philips Arena on Saturday night after falling 115-108 the previous evening.
Now, Atlanta will try to win at Conseco Fieldhouse for the first time in five games. The Hawks haven't won a road game against the Pacers (4-5) since a 117-112 overtime victory Feb. 24, 2006.
The Hawks could use Zaza Pachulia back to add some depth in the paint. The backup big man missed Saturday's game due to a sore left shoulder, and his status for this contest is uncertain.
Atlanta is already without forward Josh Smith, who has a sprained left ankle and isn't expected back for at least another week.
"There's no need to panic," Woodson said. "We've still got a couple key guys out. They're a big part of what we do."
Maurice Evans made his second start at forward for Atlanta, but scored seven points in 28 minutes.
Joe Johnson continued to carry the Hawks offensively with 31 points Saturday. The veteran guard is averaging 30.3 points while shooting 51.7 percent from the field and 46.2 percent from 3-point range over his last three contests.
Indiana is in desperate need of a boost on offense, averaging 91.5 points and shooting 40.4 percent in losing its last two games. The Pacers had won three straight.
Carelessness with the ball has hurt Indiana. In five losses, the Pacers have averaged 20.2 turnovers.
Indiana matched that number Saturday night, turning the ball over 20 times in a 104-91 loss to Chicago.
"We have to do a better job protecting the ball," Pacers point guard T.J. Ford said. "Sometimes it is just simple mental mistakes. Sometimes it is the defense. And sometimes it is just being lackadaisical."
Ford had 16 points, but is shooting 35.5 percent (11-for-31) in his last two games. He averaged 24.5 points and 10.5 assists in two contests against Atlanta last season.
Danny Granger is also coming off a sub-par offensive game, finishing with 15 points. He has been held under 20 points in two straight games after scoring at least 20 in 10 consecutive contests.
Granger, though, had 10 rebounds Saturday for his first double-double of the season. He averaged 19.0 points and 7.3 rebounds in three games versus the Hawks last season, helping the Pacers win the series 2-1.