Greetings! After a short 2-game week, Atlanta will get back to a more customary four-game slate this week with some very interesting opponents on the schedule. Let’s get to it!
Hawks @ Heat — Monday, December 10th — 7:30 PM ET
Miami has the best player in the world in Lebron James, 3 of the top 20 players in the league (Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade along with LBJ), one of the best offenses in the league, and they are the defending champions. Seems like a pretty intriguing match-up! The last time these two teams met, Miami snuck out of Philips Arena with a 95-89 win, but this Atlanta team is playing much better than they were at that early point in the season. The chief challenge associated with this game is simply a personnel issue in trying to defend both Lebron (who is impossible to defend anyway) and Dwyane Wade. Atlanta’s glaring wing weakness could be magnified here, as Stevenson will likely get the Lebron assignment, and the Wade match-up will be left to either Korver (eesh) or one of the three point guards. On the bright side for the Hawks, Miami has similar rebounding issues to Atlanta, and this isn’t an area where being exposed is an issue. At any rate, this is a nice barometer for the Hawks, who have generated a ton of buzz in recent days, but a road game in Miami isn’t the recipe for success in an ideal situation.
Hawks @ Magic — Wednesday, December 12th — 7:00 PM ET
Orlando is battling. That is the nicest thing I can say about the Magic. At 8-12, they have been extremely competitive with a roster that honestly doesn’t lend itself to be that competitive and much of that credit goes to rookie head coach (and former Hawks player) Jacque Vaughn. Atlanta defeated the Magic earlier in the year on a really ugly night with a final score of 81-72. The Magic are 29th in the league in offensive efficiency, and they really have trouble creating their own shot. The key to this one will be keeping Orlando off of the glass and making some of their lesser offensive options win this game. Being on the road is never fun in this league, but going to Orlando shouldn’t be a house of horrors for Atlanta, and this is a game to take care of with an efficient win.
Hawks vs. Bobcats — Thursday, December 13th — 7:30 PM ET
Does it seem like the Bobcats are on the schedule every week? Atlanta is only 2-0 against Charlotte so far on the season, but this is the first team to see the Hawks three times this season. Charlotte is playing much, much better in 2012-2013 than they did in 2011-2012, and their 7-12 record shows that. That said, the Bobcats are still 25th in offensive efficiency (98.5 points per 100 possessions), and 25th in defensive efficiency (105.8 points per 100 possessions) which makes for the second-worst margin in the league (Cleveland is 30th, but playing without Kyrie Irving). The biggest worry about this game is coming home on the 2nd night of a back-to-back and overlooking Charlotte. Both games this season have been ultra-competitive, and Charlotte can actually match the athleticism and quickness of Atlanta by deploying their small-ish guards (Sessions, Gordon, and Walker) much like Larry Drew does with the Harris/Williams/Teague trio. This is one of the few teams in the league that struggles to rebound even more than Atlanta does, and Josh Smith and Al Horford should key this victory at home.
Hawks vs. Warriors — Saturday, December 15th — 7:00 PM ET
Golden State rolls into town on Saturday night for the second of only 2 match-ups this season. In the opener, Golden State outlasted Atlanta 92-88 on the strength of some late production from rookie Harrison Barnes. There are some worries concerning that game, and how it may affect the second edition. First of all, Golden State won despite a combined 6-23 from the field between Steph Curry and Klay Thompson. Secondly, the Warriors utterly dominated on the glass that night by a 44-29 margin, and the only reason Atlanta was in the game as much as they were stemmed from the 23 turnovers that GS committed. Now, the positive part. Al Horford, the anchor Atlanta’s defense and rebounding, was ill for that game, and Anthony Tolliver played 12 minutes. With Horford in the lineup, the rebounding edge will likely still exist for Golden State (who rebounds the ball at a much higher rate than Atlanta normally), but it shouldn’t be nearly as lopsided as it was in November, and that is key. This should also be one of the more entertaining match-ups that you’ll see in Atlanta, as Golden State’s pace is pretty quick, and Steph Curry is an absolute joy to watch on the offensive end in conjunction with David Lee. At home, this is a spot where Atlanta should get a win more times than not, but Golden State could certainly spoil the party.
This is the first 4-game week in nearly a month for Atlanta, and the slate is busy. With Miami on the schedule, it would be semi-crazy to project a 4-0 week, but with 2 home games and a very winnable road win in Orlando, 3-1 is a reasonable expectation and anything less than 2-2 would be a failure. Stay tuned for some great action!