Atlanta Hawks vs. Indiana Pacers: Players Who Need to Step Up for Their Teams

Josh SachnoffContributor IIIFebruary 5, 2013

Atlanta small forward Josh Smith.
Atlanta small forward Josh Smith.Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The Atlanta Hawks (26-20) will travel to Indianapolis tonight to take on the Indiana Pacers (29-19). With both teams currently in playoff contention and playing well this season, it is going to be a tough game. 

The Pacers have yet to defeat the Hawks this season, losing both games on the road in Atlanta. Will this finally be the night when the Pacers get revenge, or will Atlanta continue its streak? 

The Hawks are currently 5.5 games behind the Miami Heat in the Southeast Division, but have lost two of their last three games. Meanwhile, the Pacers are on a three-game winning streak and have tied the Chicago Bulls for first place in the Central Division after defeating them 111-101 Monday night.

With both teams trying to take control of their divisions, this game becomes even more crucial. They will need their star players to step up in tonight's game and make a big impact. 

The Atlanta Hawks will need to lean on small forward Josh Smith and center Al Horford

Smith needs to be tough in the paint again after dropping 19 points on the Bulls Saturday night. His rebounding game will also need to be a contributing factor. He has averaged 12.0 rebounds in his past two games. 

Horford will need to make sure he gets his work done down low as well. He leads the team in rebounds per game with 9.8 and also needs to put points on the board tonight. He is currently averaging 16.0 points per game. 

Smith and Horford are needed on offense, but their defense is what is going to be crucial in defeating the Pacers for the third straight time this season

Smith is averaging 2.1 blocks and 6.4 defensive rebounds per game, whereas Horford has averaged 1.0 blocks and 7.2 defensive rebounds per game. 

For the Indiana Pacers to finally get revenge on the Hawks, they will need to rely on small forward Paul George and power forward David West

George looked impressive in Monday night’s game against the Bulls by recording a double-double (21 points and 11 rebounds). He has been the Pacers' leading scorer this season with 17.4 points per game. His objective tonight will be to make big shots and control the boards.

West has been on a roll as well, averaging 22.8 points in his last five games. His main role tonight will be his physical play down low. He needs to make sure he gets good looks at the basket and is effective on the boards.

The Pacers have struggled offensively this season—averaging just 92.4 points per game—relying heavily on their defensive play, which has held opponents to 90.1 points per game. 

For the Pacers to finally knock the Hawks off, they will have to slow the game down and continue to play their game, which is relying on physical defensive play.