Greetings! After a less-than-stellar 1-3 week, the Hawks will have a chance to redeem themselves with four more games on the slate this week. Unfortunately, three of the four are away from home, but each is a winnable game. Let’s take a look.
Hawks @ T-Wolves — Tuesday, January 8th — 8:00 PM ET
Minnesota on the road is no small task, but the circumstances are mitigated by injuries for the home team. Kevin Love re-fractured his hand, and Ricky Rubio hasn’t been able to stay on the floor for the T-Wolves, and that presents an advantage for Atlanta. Minnesota has been a top-10 defense this season, but their offense ranks in the bottom 3rd of the league, and this might be an opportunity to have the Hawks defense get healthy. Keep an eye on Shved and Ridnour, however, who have been playing very well together in the Minnesota backcourt. I’d love to see Josh Smith have a big game in this spot, as he’ll be facing off with the undersized Derrick Williams at times. Should, at least, be a fun one.
Hawks @ Cavs — Wednesday, January 9th — 7:00 PM ET
Cleveland is not a good basketball team. With that said, they’ve battled the Hawks to a 1-1 draw in their first two meetings this season, and Kyrie Irving is back and playing at a very high level. They’ll probably be without Anderson Varejao in this one, which really benefits Atlanta up front, but Tristan Thompson is playing the best basketball of his career in his absence. This one will come down to whether the Hawks can slow Irving, and they’ll probably throw both Teague and Williams at him at various points in the night. Cleveland’s offense has been woeful all season (with or without Irving), and their talent isn’t on the same level as the Hawks. This is a road spot where a win should be expected instead of hoped for.
Hawks vs. Jazz — Friday, January 11th — 7:30 PM ET
I’m in the tank for this Utah team. They have four legitimate NBA bigs in Jefferson, Favors, Millsap, and Kanter, and that’s a scary proposition for the undersized Hawks. We’ll likely see a steady diet of Zaza Pachulia to match size with Utah, and fortunately, that’s a lineup that has really excelled for Atlanta in recent days. On the bright side, Utah’s backcourt is decimated to the point where Jamaal Tinsley is getting huge minutes at the point, and that’s certainly the area where Atlanta will concentrate its efforts. It’ll be important for the Hawks to hold their own on the glass in this one, but Utah’s defense is pretty spotty overall, as Jefferson is a black hole on the inside, and their perimeter defenders outside of Marvin Williams (yes, that Marvin Williams!) leave a lot to be desired. As the one home game on the schedule, this one is important.
Hawks @ Wizards — Saturday, January 12th — 7:00 PM ET
The final of what seems like 100 meetings of the season with Washington. The Hawks are somehow 3-0 against the Wizards despite playing every single one of them to the wire. The Wizards are a lowly 5-28 and they are also dead-last in offensive efficiency (by a wide margin), so it would be nice to see the Hawks’ top-10 defense clamp down on a bad opponent early. Jordan Crawford has been tremendous against Atlanta this season, averaging 17 points, 6 assists, and 6 rebounds against his former team, but outside of Crawford and rookie Bradley Beal, there’s not a lot to fear on the defensive end. Godspeed to us all if Washington hangs around for the fourth consecutive time.
Overall, any 4-game week that features 3 road games isn’t a cake walk, but because of the opponents, who are all at .500 or below, it’s a winnable slate. Looking forward to Atlanta getting back to what they’ve done so effectively all season by defending like crazy, making threes, and getting wins. Enjoy it!