Greetings! Another 4-game week is upon us, with the Atlanta Hawks hosting three games at the Highlight Factory, and taking one ultra-quick road trip up I-85 to Charlotte to face the Bobcats. This is a point in the schedule that leans favorably toward the Hawks, and let’s take a look at what to expect in the next 7 days.
Hawks vs. Magic — Monday, November 19th — 7:30 PM ET
This isn’t your older brother’s Orlando Magic. At 3-6, Orlando is playing at about the level that most people expected them to play at before the season got underway. Dwight Howard is in LA, and the haul they received for him via trade doesn’t exactly inspire too much confidence. Arron Afflalo and JJ Redick are the best two players on the Magic roster in my estimation, but the issue is… they both play the same position! This is a match-up where Atlanta should have its way up front against the path of least resistance that is Glen Davis at the 4-spot and the combo Nikola Vucevic and Josh McRoberts next to him. In short, this is a game that Atlanta can’t afford to lose at home, and while it’s not a “must-win” or anything (no game in November is), it would be a real disappointment to see the Hawks lay an egg here.
Hawks vs. Wizards —Wednesday, November 21st — 7:30 PM ET
Consider the fact that Washington is currently 0-8 and this preview writes itself. The Wizards are a bad basketball team with John Wall on the court, but without him in the lineup, things are much, much worse. Washington is being led in scoring by Jordan Crawford (12.4 ppg), but no one in the lineup particularly scares you. Also missing from the early-season rotation is Nene who is also rehabbing an injury, so the front-line should be a field day for Josh Smith and Al Horford against the likes of Kevin Seraphin, Trevor Booker, and Earl Barron. Much like Orlando (and even moreso), this is a game that Atlanta should win comfortably in a home setting.
Hawks @ Bobcats — Friday, November 23rd — 7:00 PM ET
More bad teams! Fresh off of the worst winning percentage season in the history of the NBA (not a typo), the Bobcats have been surprisingly competitive this season. Betting on a 4-4 record for Charlotte would’ve won people a lot of money in the off-season, but there have been positives. The 3-man backcourt of Kemba Walker, Ben Gordon, and Ramon Sessions has netted positive results, as each guy has a PER over 17 in the early going with scoring averages between 14 and 19 points a game. Frankly, this output is a result of all 3 guys playing over their heads to an extent, but it seems like Kemba Walker may have made “the leap” and that’s a great sign for Bobcats fans. The front-court is still an area of weakness for Charlotte that the Hawks can exploit, as guys like Byron Mullens aren’t exactly known for defense. One additional positive for Atlanta is the lack of size in the backcourt for Charlotte, as well as the absence of a dominant wing scorer. Both of these things are potential achilles heels for Atlanta, and this isn’t a night where the Hawks will have to concern themselves with either one.
Hawks vs. Clippers; Saturday, November 24th — 7:00 PM ET
Easily the toughest game of the road trip. Atlanta dropped a 89-76 decision to the Clippers last Sunday, and the depth of LA caused real issues. Because LA has so many options, they need a willing facilitator, and that is the picture of Chris Paul. Watching Mr. Paul direct traffic in Philips Arena is never fun as a home-team fan, but he’s tremendous to watch, and I’m interested to see how Larry Drew chooses to defend him as a result. The biggest x-factors in the Clippers’ 7-2 start have been Jamal Crawford and Deandre Jordan. Crawford, the former Hawk, is averaging 20.7 points per game in just 28 minutes and is currently sporting a 52/44/92 slash line that would make Larry Bird drool. This probably isn’t sustainable, but he’s always been a tremendous scorer, and I’m sure there’s some fire to stick it to his old team. In the front-court, Jordan is averaging 10 points and 7 rebounds to go along with 2.4 blocks per game, but really seems to have turned the corner this season. At any rate, this is a nice challenge for Atlanta, and at full strength, this is a pretty even match-up inside Philips Arena.
As you can see by the individual games, this is a week where Atlanta desperately needs a 3-1 or 4-0 output. It would be inexcusable for a projected playoff team to split these 4 games as the schedule doesn’t get any easier than this over a week time-frame. Stay tuned for some wins!