Greetings! It is time for the ship to be righted, and with that, another 4- game week is upon us. The slate isn’t getting any easier, so the challenge is great. With that, let’s take a look at what’s to come.
Hawks @ Bulls — Monday, January 14th — 8:00 PM ET
I can’t imagine that seeing the 20-15 Bulls and their top-5 defense is a great recipe for getting the team back on the rails, but that is the challenge on Monday night. In addition, Chicago is coming off of an embarrassing 16-point home loss to the hapless Suns on Saturday, so the Hawks will be dealing with an angry team to boot. Fortunately, the match-ups are in Atlanta’s favor in a lot of ways, as the back-court battle clearly favors Atlanta in the absence of Derrick Rose, and the front-court duo of Josh Smith and Al Horford matches up directly with Luol Deng and Joakim Noah. This will be a stiff test for the Atlanta offense, and it also features the always-entertaining battle of former Florida teammates with Noah and Horford squaring off. Really looking forward to this one.
Hawks vs. Nets — Wednesday, January 16th — 7:30 PM ET
Welcome back, Joe! In case you’ve been asleep for the better part of 6 months, former Hawk Joe Johnson has landed in Brooklyn, and this will be his first appearance in Philips Arena since departing. That’s obviously the biggest draw of this one, and I’m thoroughly intrigued as to what his reception will be from Atlanta’s fans. Personally, I would give him a standing ovation pre-game, and then root against him like anything other opponent once the ball was tipped, but somehow, I doubt that things will play out that way. Since the two teams will face off just two days later (this time in Brooklyn), we’ll break that down separately.
Hawks @ Nets — Friday, January 18th — 7:30 PM ET
Here we are! Now that we’ve acknowledged the Joe Johnson factor, let’s concentrate on the match-up. Brooklyn is a talented, yet boring, offensive team that is currently #9 in the league on that end efficiency-wise. That is clearly their strength behind Johnson, All-Star Deron Williams, Brook Lopez, and Gerald Wallace. The size that Brooklyn presents on the perimeter could be a match-up problem against the very small Atlanta guards and that is something to keep an eye on. Also, the Lopez/Horford square-off could be really important as to who has the upper hand in these two games. The Nets have won 6th straight (as of post on Monday), so this is a hot team, and it’ll be a challenge on both nights.
Hawks vs. Spurs — Saturday, January 19th — 7:00 PM ET
San Antonio is a gauntlet. The Spurs are 29-11 as of this post and they present issues for any opponent. Tim Duncan is playing at his highest level in years, and Al Horford will have his hands full all night. Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili are still among the elite in terms of back-court tandems, and the depth that they present is impressive across the board. With all of that said, this is a coaching battle that Atlanta can’t expect to win. Gregg Popovich is the best coach in the entire league, and if Larry Drew simply battles him to a draw in this game (good luck), the Hawks will be competitive, especially at home. San Antonio is the only team in the league that is in the top-5 in both offense and defense efficiency, showing tremendous balance, and Saturday is the toughest test of the week despite the home-court atmosphere.
To be honest, this is a big week. With Atlanta at just 4-6 in their last 10 games, it is important that this week yields, at worst, a 2-2 record despite a highly demanding schedule. If you went by the “Vegas” mentality, Atlanta will likely be the underdog in 3 of the 4 games (with the exception of the Brooklyn home game), meaning that it will take a special effort for the Hawks to get this righted. Either way, it’s a very entertaining slate of games, and all eyes are on the hard-court.