Greetings! With an ultra-competitive and severely challenging week on the horizon, the Atlanta Hawks are in need of some wins. Let’s take a look at what’s to come.
Hawks @ Heat — Tuesday, March 12th — 7:30 PM ET
When the Hawks arrive in Miami, the Heat will be riding an 18-game winning streak. Yes, eighteen games in a row. Atlanta is charged with the tall task of ending that streak, but in Miami, it’s frankly unlikely. The Heat are playing at an absurdly high level at the moment, and they just knocked off Indiana by double-digits on a night where Lebron James didn’t reach even 15 points. It’s a juggernaut. Fortunately for Atlanta, they’ve at least competed in each of the 3 previous meetings, but it isn’t the best team to draw Miami on the road. Look for Larry Drew to try to exploit the Heat in the paint with Al Horford and Josh Smith, and it’ll be interesting to see who draws the majority of the defensive assignment on Lebron. With the addition of Dahntay Jones to the roster, Drew now has three legitimate options (Stevenson, Jones, Smith) to throw at him, but I have a feeling we’ll be seeing a ton of Stevenson because he can’t play the following night. It wouldn’t be a shock to see Atlanta play them close, but a victory would be surprising.
Hawks vs. Lakers — Wednesday, March 13th — 7:30 PM ET
Just 10 days before these two take the court in Atlanta, they played a down-to-the-wire classic in LA. The Hawks came out on the short end of that 99-98 decision, but it certainly showed that they are, at minimum, as good as the Lakers. Kobe Bryant is playing out of his mind, and Dwight Howard looks to be turning the corner, which makes for a scary proposition, but there are still areas that can be exploited with this LA team. Jeff Teague will have free reign offensively, with Steve Nash providing little resistance, and it will be crucial to get a good game from Teague in this spot. Al Horford would be helpful in bringing Dwight Howard away from the basket, and there will be 15-footers available throughout the night. Defensively, Bryant is the concern, and with Stevenson likely unavailable, this may be the game that Larry Drew chooses to highlight the defensive prowess of Dahntay Jones. It’s always a big deal when Hollywood comes to town, and this is no different. As a side note, watch for the amount of Lakers fans in the crowd at Philips, as the total is sure to be staggeringly high.
Hawks vs. Suns — Friday, March 15th — 7:30 PM ET
A revenge game! Atlanta inexplicably went into Phoenix and lost on March 1st. Road losses aren’t usually a bad thing in the NBA, but with the Suns at 22-41 on the season, it wasn’t an inspiring outcome. The Suns are a bottom-10 team in both offensive and defensive efficiency this year, and Atlanta has the advantage at the majority of spots in the lineup. With Marcin Gortat now injured, Phoenix is weak in the middle, and it could be a big night for Al Horford against Luis Scola (aka “the path of least resistance”) and company. Frankly, it would be inexplicable to not win this game comfortably at home, and with no back-to-back or road game excuses, it’s time to win this game convincingly.
Hawks @ Nets — Sunday, March 17th — 8:00 PM ET
Another revenge possibility? Brooklyn came into Philips and won last week, and while it certainly isn’t a similar situation to Phoenix (i.e. Brooklyn is actually better than Atlanta in the standings), it wasn’t a great performance on the court. Joe Johnson has struggled mightily in both trips to Atlanta, but I have a feeling he’ll be up for this one, and he could be a key to the Brooklyn offense. In my mind, the match-up comes down to who wins the point guard battle, as Deron Williams has been wildly inconsistent at times, and Jeff Teague’s nickname should be “wildly inconsistent”. If they play to a draw, Atlanta has a chance in the game, but if Williams takes it to Teague, it’s going to be a long Sunday evening. This is probably the make-or-break game on the schedule for the week, and a quality road win would go a long way.
With the road game in Miami on the calendar, no one would ever expect a 4-0 sweep this week. With that said, the other three games are incredibly winnable, and if Atlanta has any designs on home-court in the 1st round, it’s time to win these toss-up games. Should be an entertaining slate!