Greetings! The Atlanta Hawks will embark on a 4-game road trip beginning today with a date with the Los Angeles Clippers. It should be an interesting test for the new-look Hawks, and let’s take a quick look at each game:
Hawks @ Clippers — Sunday, November 11th @ 3:30 PM (ET)
The Chris Paul show! Hawks fans let out a collective sigh every time that Chris Paul does something beautiful in a game against Atlanta, but for me (an unabashed Chris Paul lover), it’s especially hard to see the should-be Hawks guard carve up the Atlanta defense. Aside from Paul’s mastery, the Clips have gotten very nice early-season returns from Jamal Crawford, who has averaged 21.8 points a game in his first 6, and Deandre Jordan, who’s putting up a 12-point, 8-rebound, 2.5-block per game stat line in the early going. Oh, and not to mention Blake Griffin, who’s been typically solid in the early moments of the season. This version of the Hawks actually matches up remarkably well with the Clippers in that they have multiple guys to throw at Chris Paul, and the #1 wing option for LA (Crawford) isn’t someone with typical swingman size. I’d like to see Larry Drew go with 2 point guards of the Williams/Teague/Harris trio for a lot of the night here.
Hawks @ Blazers — Monday, November 12th @ 10:00 PM (ET)
LaMarcus Aldridge and the Blazers host Atlanta on Monday night on the 2nd game of a road back-to-back. The circumstances and home-court advantage for Portland (always stellar) put Atlanta behind the eight-ball from the jump here. The Aldridge/Smith match-up is a crucial one in this game, and although Horford will likely see a lot of Aldridge defensively, it would be nice if Josh Smith could at least match the production from the Blazers all-star forward. This is also the Hawks first look at hot rookie PG Damian Lillard, and I’m interested to see how Teague and company can contain him. The match-up nightmare for Atlanta would come from Nic Batum if he is going off offensively. Josh Smith should likely draw this assignment, but Batum is so versatile that if the Hawks go small and play Josh at the 4, he’s going to have a significant advantage over the Korver/Stevenson duo.
Hawks @ Warriors — Wednesday, November 14th @ 10:30 PM (ET)
The Warriors are talented and they are pretty deep when healthy. Steph Curry has played in all 7 seven games this season for GS and has put up a 17/5/5 line while doing it. On the wing is where the real issue lies, as Atlanta has no real defensive answer for Klay Thompson (a pure scorer on the wing), and a big lineup that would play Carl Landry and David Lee together. One positive note for the Hawks is that Andrew Bogut is banged up for the Warriors. He’s normally an all-world defender/rebounder from the center position, but if he’s limited/out, Golden State is very weak in the front-court, especially defensively. I’d look for a big game from Smith and Horford here as David Lee is a match-up to exploit regardless of who he guards.
Hawks @ Kings; Friday, November 16th @ 10:00 PM (ET)
Oh, the Kings. Sacramento’s roster is very talented… and a couple disaster at the same time. Of their top 8 players, 4 of them are power forwards/centers (Cousins, Robinson, Thompson) and 4 of them are combo guards (Thornton, Evans, Thomas, Brooks). Read that again. None of their best 8 players legitimate wings/small forwards, and that bodes well for a Hawks team is also weak in those areas. Demarcus Cousins is a nightmare match-up for Al Horford because he presents legitimate center size, but if he can hold serve against Cousins, there isn’t much more fear to be had. The Hawks backcourt strength should off-set Evans, Thornton, and the Thomas/Brooks duo in a positive way. Overall, the Hawks are the better, more talented team, and I’d expect them to take care of business here in the easiest fashion of the 4 games.
The West Coast can occasionally be a place where Eastern conference teams go to die, but the match-ups aren’t terribly difficult, and if the Hawks can steal a 2-2 trip, that’s probably a success. Stay tuned for an entertaining trip!