The Atlanta Hawks are back from the dead and look for their third straight win on Sunday when they face the Memphis Grizzlies for the first time this season. Atlanta looked lost earlier this week before notching home wins over the Indiana Pacers and the Houston Rockets.
Surprisingly it has been Atlanta's defense that has been largely responsible for their recent success. The Hawks held the high scoring Rockets to a season worst 80 points on Friday and have forced their opponents into 38 turnovers during the two-game winning streak. To better state their defensive effort, the Hawks have risen to ninth in the league in defensive rating where they are surrendering 101.6 points per 100 possessions.
Atlanta has been a really good team at home this season but has struggled on the road. They have lost 8 of 10 away from Philips Arena but have enjoyed a lot of recent success in Memphis. The Hawks have defeated the Grizzlies in 12 of the last 14 matchups and 5 of 6 in Memphis.
The Grizzlies have struggled under new coach Dave Joerger and are 16-19 and trying to weather the storm until they get Marc Gasol and Tony Allen back from injury. Zach Randolph and Mike Conley have been carrying the load offensively of late and Conley is enjoying the best season of his career statistically. He posted a career high 31 points last time out in a win over Phoenix.
On the surface, Memphis still looks like a good defensive team allowing just 97.5 points per game. However, they play at the league's slowest pace and their defensive rating has risen to 105.2 which is 24th in the league. A fast pace is always important for the Hawks and will be key to a win on Sunday.
John Jenkins remains out for Atlanta due to a back injury. Memphis will be without Gasol and Allen for at least another week. Gasol is back doing some conditioning work but there is still no timetable for his return to the court.
When the two teams meet on Sunday the Hawks will see a familiar face in forward James Johnson who was cut by Atlanta in training camp. Johnson went to the D-League and earned a call-up by the Grizzlies and has performed well averaging 8.3 points and 4.7 rebounds in 12 games.
Game Date/Time: Sunday, January 12, 6 p.m.
Location: FedEx Forum, Memphis, Tennessee
Radio: 92.9 "The Game" FM