The Atlanta Hawks didn't play with their regular enthusiasm last time out and suffered one of their most embarrassing losses of the season. That lack of intensity usually hasn't been a problem for the Hawks against the Indiana Pacers.
With a potentially difficult portion of the schedule looming, Atlanta looks to regain its normal swagger and win a fifth straight game over Indiana on Saturday night at Conseco Fieldhouse.
The Hawks (20-8) have had success this season running a fast-paced offense, but they couldn't keep up with Denver in Wednesday's 124-104 loss at the Pepsi Center. Atlanta fell behind by 10 points after one quarter, gave up a season-high point total and allowed the Nuggets to shoot 54.4 percent. The 20-point loss matched a season worst for the Hawks.
"We just kind of ran out of energy," said Joe Johnson, who finished with 16 points -- 5.3 below his average. "We didn't have the intensity that we normally have."
With a home-and-home series against LeBron James and Cleveland set for Tuesday and Wednesday, Atlanta will quickly need to rediscover its normal spark. It has a good chance to do so against an Indiana team it has had little trouble with lately.
The Hawks are averaging 113.3 points and shooting 49.7 percent during a four-game winning streak over the Pacers (9-18) since a 113-96 loss on Nov. 18, 2008.
Atlanta opened this season with a 120-109 home win over Indiana. Johnson finished with 25 points, and Al Horford added 24 points and 16 rebounds.
The tandem of Johnson and Horford have led the Hawks during this winning streak over the Pacers. Johnson is averaging 26.5 points in the last four meetings, while Horford is averaging 18.8 points and 15.0 boards in those contests.
Despite losing to Atlanta in its opener, Indiana still managed to win five of its first eight games. Very little has gone right since for the Pacers, who have lost 15 of 19.
Indiana is coming off Tuesday's 103-94 loss at Boston, its fourth straight defeat. The Pacers had a 15-point halftime lead but were unable to finish off the mighty Celtics.
Indiana has played some other elite teams closely over the past two weeks, but it's still just 1-9 against opponents with winning records.
"I think the positive thing is we're in games against Orlando on the road, San Antonio on the road, the Celtics on the road without Danny Granger," coach Jim O'Brien said. "I tend to take that as a positive."
Granger, the Pacers' leading scorer with 24.4 points per game, hasn't played since Dec. 5 and is expected to be out for another few weeks.
Troy Murphy, who had 24 points and a season-high 18 rebounds against Boston, is carrying the team in Granger's absence. The 6-foot-11 forward is averaging 17.9 points and 10.9 rebounds while shooting 42.2 percent from 3-point range in the nine games since Granger's injury after averaging 10.8 points and 8.8 boards while shooting 36.2 percent from beyond the arc in his first 12 contests.
Murphy had 14 points, 10 rebounds and a career high-tying seven assists against the Hawks in the opener.