Indiana Pacers vs. Atlanta Hawks Pick & Prediction JANUARY 5th 2024

The last time the Atlanta Hawks and the Indiana Pacers met, the scoreboard operator had a busy night.

The teams combined for 309 points in a 157-152 Pacers win Nov. 21 in Atlanta, resulting in just the 12th 300-point regulation game in NBA history.

There’s no reason to believe that Friday’s matchup at Indianapolis won’t feature similar offensive explosions.

The league’s highest scoring team at 126.9 points per game, Indiana hasn’t shown signs of slowing down, with its star player, Tyrese Haliburton, at the forefront.

Keying the Pacers’ current five-game winning streak, Haliburton added to his stellar season Wednesday, tallying 31 points, 11 assists and zero turnovers in Indiana’s 142-130 win against the Milwaukee Bucks – the Pacers’ second win in as many games over their Central Division rival.

“As a young group, when you play good teams, you want to be as prepared for them as you can,” Haliburton said. “I think part of the maturation of this group is being able to continue that competitiveness, and being up for games that aren’t against the Bucks. We just have to continue to treat every game the same way and be ready to go.”

Indiana has four of five games already played against Milwaukee this season in a stark contrast from February 2019-January 2023 when the Pacers lost 14 of 15 against the Bucks.

Haliburton and the Pacers now shift their attention to the Hawks, a team that mirrors Indiana in many ways.

Indiana and Atlanta are first and third, respectively, in scoring, but both struggle on defense. The Pacers allow 124.6 points per game (second most in the NBA); Atlanta isn’t far behind, giving up 123.2 (third most).

The teams are also led by stars who sit atop the NBA’s assists leaderboard.

Haliburton leads all players with 12.7 assists per game, while Atlanta’s Trae Young dishes out 11.3 assists per contest, good for second in the league.

Young’s excellent passing season continued in Wednesday’s 141-138 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder, as the sixth-year point guard finished with 11 dimes – and has now recorded double-digit assists in 10 of his past 11 games.

Five of the 11 assists were to Jalen Johnson, who poured in a career-high 28 points in the Atlanta win. In the midst of a breakout season, Johnson missed more than a month with a wrist injury before returning Dec. 26 against Chicago.

Since his return, Johnson has contributed 19.5 points and 11 rebounds per game, while helping guide the Hawks to two straight wins.

“Whether you want to call it playmaking or facilitating, I think (Jalen) is getting more and more comfortable, and our team is getting more comfortable with him having the ball in his hands,” Atlanta coach Quin Snyder said.

“We have seen it in practice settings, but I think his comfort and confidence to do those things in a game, against a good team, is unique to him.”

Johnson is averaging career highs of 15.3 points per game, and 8.1 rebounds per contest, to go along with 59.6 percent shooting from the field and 41.5 percent on 3-pointers.

– Field Level Media

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