The Atlanta Hawks have won two straight games and will try to slow down the red hot New York Knicks who are battling the Pacers for second place in the Eastern Conference. The Knicks have won nine straight and are percentage points ahead of Indiana for second place.
The game also has playoff ramifications for the Hawks as well who enter play on Wednesday in fifth place but just one game ahead of the Chicago Bulls in the standings. Atlanta is also just a game back of fourth place Brooklyn for home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. With seven games remaining their is still plenty of opportunity to see the standings shuffled before the playoffs start.
Wednesday's game is the second of three meetings between Atlanta and New York this season. The Knicks won an entertaining 106-104 matchup at Madison Square Garden back in January behind 42 points from Carmelo Anthony. Amare Stoudemire had 18 points and eight rebounds in that matchup but he has since been lost for at least the regular season because of a knee injury.
Tyson Chandler returned to the New York lineup on Tuesday after missing the previous 10 games because of a back injury. After Tuesday's 102-90 win over Miami, Chandler was unsure whether or not he would play in the back-to-back against the Hawks but reported no pain in his back.
Atlanta has been dealing with injury issues of their own but they did get Al Horford back in the lineup on Monday after a two game absence because of a stomach illness. Horford is expected to play again on Wednesday but could be without John Jenkins again because of a concussion that he suffered in last Friday's loss to the Celtics.
The Hawks and Knicks may have two different philosophies as they close out the regular season. Mike Woodson previously indicated that New York would grind its way to the finish line as they look for their first Atlantic Division title since 1994 and try to hold off the Pacers for the second seed in the conference.
"It's going to be a fight all the way to the end with Indiana and we want to win our division so these guys are playing for something," Woodson said. "So every game means something and it's important that we continue to win."
After Monday's win over the Cavaliers, Larry Drew said that he might soon think about reducing his key players' minutes in an effort to get them ready for the post season even with the fourth seed now realistically in sight.
"As we move forward as well, I'm going to have to limit some guys' minutes, still have some guys who are a little banged up, some guys that are tired so chances are we will be resting guys these last seven games," Drew said.
If the Hawks are going to snap the Knicks' winning streak then they will need to find an answer for Anthony and J.R. Smith who have both played exceptionally well during New York's nine game winning streak. Anthony is pouring in 30.4 points over his last nine games on 46 percent shooting while grabbing 7.5 rebounds.
Smith has been playing equally well scoring at a 23.8 clip on 50 percent shooting including 38 percent shooting from downtown. Smith has the ability to shoot the Knicks in and out of games but lately he has been contributing quite positively to their winning streak.
Game Date/Time: Wednesday, April 3, 7 p.m. ET
Location: Philips Arena, Atlanta, Georgia
Radio: 98.9 FM
Odds: Atlanta is a 3.5 point favorite at home against New York.