Feb 11, 2013; Dallas, TX, USA; Atlanta Hawks center Al Horford (15) dunks in the fourth quarter against the Dallas Mavericks at the American Airlines Center. The Hawks beat the Mavs 105-101. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Brad's Beat: Atlanta Hawks Weekly Preview (3/18/13 - 3/24/13)

Greetings! With a three-game home stand to start the week, things are lining up for the late-season push to the finish line. Let’s take a look at what’s on tap.

Hawks vs. Mavs — Monday, March 18th — 7:30 PM ET

Dallas is playing better at the time of this post (6-4 in their last 10) but it’s been a lost season for the Mavs. They are a nearly-insurmountable 4 games behind the Lakers for the 8th spot, and they’ve struggled mightily for most of the year. They aren’t particularly efficient on either end of the court (14th on offense, 19th on defense), and outside of Dirk, nobody is particularly scary to the Hawks. Josh Smith will likely draw the Dirk assignment, and his length/athleticism should give him fits throughout the night. In addition, Dallas is one of the only teams in the league with a worse rebounding rate than Atlanta, and that’s an opportunity to steal some easy baskets. Frankly, this is a game that the Hawks should win (maybe even comfortably), and a loss would be tough to swallow.

Hawks vs. Bucks — Wednesday, March 20th — 7:30 PM ET

Milwaukee is an interesting spot right now. They are basically guaranteed of the 8th seed in the East (and the subsequent early exit at the hands of Miami), but they are evaluating JJ Redick and company for next season. Anyway, Wednesday is the first of two games with Milwaukee during this week. In a perfect world, Atlanta would expose Milwaukee’s offensive short-comings by allowing the Jennings/Ellis combo to shoot them out of games, and it’s a situation where the Hawks can use the Teague/Harris backcourt and not be short-handed defensively. Personally, I’m excited for the Al Horford/Larry Sanders battle on the interior, and that’s the match-up to watch. Realistically, it’s probably a spot where Atlanta will split the home-and-home with the Bucks, but as the Hawks push towards a possible home-court series, a sweep would do wonders.

Hawks vs. Blazers — Friday, March 22nd — 7:30 PM ET

The one-and-only visit to Atlanta from the Blazers this season. Portland has been an abysmal road team this season (9-23 record at the time of this post), and that spells good news for Atlanta. The Blazers have a solid starting group anchored by LaMarcus Aldridge (one of my favorite players in the league) and rookie stud Damien Lillard, but their bench is a grease fire, and that would account for their road struggles. It will be interesting to see the defensive deployment by Larry Drew, as he could put Josh Smith or Al Horford on LMA, and he’s the key to everything that they do. The Blazers sport a top-10 offense in the league, but they are abysmal defensively at times, and it could be a welcome break from Milwaukee’s quality defense.

Hawks @ Bucks — Sunday, March 24th — 3:00 PM ET

A Sunday afternoon time-slot isn’t exactly familiar to this Hawks team, but with a day off prior, it won’t be too brutal for Atlanta. As mentioned above, this is the tougher of the two games (due to venue), but Atlanta is a better team, and it would be a great spot to steal a road game against a playoff-bound opponent.

With home-court in the first round firmly on the minds of any Hawks fan, this is a great opportunity to gain ground on the upper-tier in the East. There isn’t a single “daunting” task on the calendar this week, and with three home games against inferior opponents, anything less than a 3-1 campaign would be disconcerting. The late-season push is upon us, and with a healthy Smith/Teague back in the lineup full-time, things are looking up.

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Tags: Atlanta Hawks Dallas Mavericks Milwaukee Bucks Portland Trail Blazers

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