Atlanta Hawks: Hawks vs. Hornets Pre Game Report

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The Atlanta Hawks are looking to build on the momentum they’ve created in their last two outings against the Bulls and 76ers as they prepare to go on the road for a few days to face their Southeast Division foe, the Charlotte Hornets.

If the last two games are any indication, the Atlanta Hawks might have just found their stride.  Not that a road win against the 76ers is anything to write home about, but following that up with a commanding win against the Bulls on Saturday is.  The Hawks had themselves a great second half to a week that began with a two consecutive losses to the New York Knicks.

On Saturday against the Bulls, the Hawks took control of the game early and fended off a second half Bulls rally en route to a 120-105 win.  Al Horford scored a season high 33 points to go along with 10 rebounds, 6 assists and 4 blocks in what was his best all around outing in recent memory.  Kent Bazemore held Jimmy Butler in check for a good portion of the first half all while Mike Scott paced the bench scoring with 14 points including two big three’s and a put back dunk that got the crowd all kinds of fired up.

The Hornets have come back down to Earth recently as they have now lost 7 straight since being four games over .500 at 17-13 just after Christmas.  The absence of Al Jefferson has really begun to take its toll on this team as they rely too much on a perimeter-oriented offense that just doesn’t work without a big man in the middle that can go get an easy bucket every now and then.  The Hornets return home fresh off a recent four game win-less road trip culminating in a 95-92 loss to the Denver Nuggets on Sunday.

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The last time these two teams met was back in the season’s first few days as they played on back to back nights, the first in Atlanta and the second in Charlotte.  Atlanta swept both contests, although both matchups came down to the wire with the Hawks winning them both by a combined 5 points.  Kent Bazemore was the game’s leading scorer in both with 19 and 20 points respectively.  But both teams look much different than they did back then.  The Hawks were being cautious with minutes for both Korver and Sefolosha (Kyle didn’t play at all in one game) while the Hornets had their full complement of players that now excludes the aforementioned Jefferson.

Keys to the Game:

Pressure Kemba: One thing the Hornets do extremely well is take care of the ball.  They rank as the best team in the league in terms of fewest turnovers per game.  On the other hand, the Hawks are #3 in steals per game.  Something will have to give in this matchup and it all starts with Charlotte’s lead guard, Walker.  With Jefferson out, he is their workhorse on offense and it will be up to primarily Jeff Teague to keep him in check.  If Walker gets space, watch out, as he can light you up from anywhere on the court.  Just ask any team in the Big East circa 2011.  With all due respect to the rest of the Bobcats, including former Hawk Marvin Williams, if Walker can be kept in check then they

Jan 9, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; Chicago Bulls forward Nikola Mirotic (44) tries a shot over Atlanta Hawks forward Paul Millsap (4) while falling down during the second half at Philips Arena. The Hawks defeated the Bulls 120-105. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 9, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; Chicago Bulls forward Nikola Mirotic (44) tries a shot over Atlanta Hawks forward Paul Millsap (4) while falling down during the second half at Philips Arena. The Hawks defeated the Bulls 120-105. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports /

really don’t stand a chance.

Just Baze!: Kent Bazemore’s play has been nothing short of spectacular this season.  SDS Co-Editor Josh Broom chronicled Baze’s success in a piece earlier this week that showed how well he has done in filling in for DeMarre Carroll.  The Hawks have really needed his contributions thus far as Kyle Korver just hasn’t been himself this season.  With Baze cementing himself as this team’s best wing, he should see an uptick in his usage as he keeps getting more comfortable with his role within the system.  He’s seen his scoring rise in each of the season’s first four months with January seeing him average 16 points per contest.  He won’t have it easy in this one as Batum is no slouch on the defensive end but Baze has been playing at such a high level lately that almost nothing can bring him down other than himself.

Projected Starting Lineups:

Atlanta Hawks

  • PG: Jeff Teague
  • SG: Kyle Korver
  • SF: Kent Bazemore
  • PF: Paul Millsap
  • C: Al Horford

Notes: Thabo Sefolosha (wrist) is questionable for tonight’s game.

Charlotte Hornets

  • PG: Kemba Walker
  • SG: P.J. Hairston
  • SF: Nicolas Batum
  • PF: Marvin Williams
  • C: Cody Zeller

Notes: Al Jefferson (knee) is out until February and will not dress.

Other News & Notes:

  • The Hawks split the season series with the Hornets 2-2 last season
  • Al Horford has four double-doubles in his last six games
  • Mike Scott is shooting a career high 51.9% from the field including 40.7% from beyond the arc
  • Tim Hardaway Jr. seems to have found his way into the rotation, logging 12+ minutes in the past three games
  • Tonight’s game will be broadcast on Fox Sports South (TV) and 92.9 The Game (Radio)

Next: Southeast Division Power Rankings

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