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Pacers Vs. Hawks: Atlanta Plays Meaningless Game In Indianapolis Without Josh Smith

One team clinched the final playoff spot. The other secured the best possible seed they could have in the postseason. So how does that bode for the Atlanta Hawks' Friday night matchup against the Indiana Pacers? A lot of time for rest and relaxation.

Josh Smith and Jason Collins will not be in uniform when the Hawks take on the Pacers at Conseco Fieldhouse (7:00 p.m., SportSouth, 97.9 FM).

Both players are getting much needed rest after the Hawks secured the No. 5 seed in the playoffs after the Philadelphia 76ers lost on Tuesday. Smith is battling some swelling in his right knee. Collins twisted an ankle in Atlanta's loss to the San Antonio Spurs.

With the Hawks' ceiling capped at the five spot and a first round matchup against the Orlando Magic looming, Atlanta told Smith and Collins to stay home and get healthy. The Hawks need both players to match Dwight Howard's offensive presence in the post and it's way more important to have a healthy Smith and Collins next week than to risk further aggravating the injuries by playing the duo in some meaningless games.

The Pacers on the other hand are just happy to be returning to the playoffs, even if it means facing a red-hot Chicago Bulls team in the first round. Indiana secured the No. 8 spot with an impressive 136-112 win over the Washington Wizards on Wednesday. Couple that with a loss by the Charlotte Bobcats and Indiana's back in the postseason dance for the first time since 2006.

Indiana is riding high of late, posting wins in four of their last five games to secure a trip to the postseason. However, they've had absolutely no success against Atlanta. They have lost nine straight to the Hawks.

Photographs by coka_koehler used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.