On the heels of an embarrassing loss at the hands of the San Antonio Spurs on Friday night, the Hawks travel to Milwaukee in search of a restoration effort against the Bucks. The big story of Saturday's game centers around the "walking wounded" for Atlanta, but sometimes, the schedule lines up perfectly, and that is certainly the case here.
Friday night's effort was definitely one to forget, as a 26-point deficit that featured a season-low point total is less than desirable, but with the short turnaround, no one in the organization can afford to have a long memory. Milwaukee has been the "cure" for many teams this season, though, and the Bucks enter this particular match-up with the worst record in the NBA at 8-34.
The Bucks enter the game with both the league's worst defense (allowing 105.1 points per 100 possessions) and the league's worst net rating (allowing 9.5 points more per 100 possessions than they are able to score), accounting for their lowly 42-game record. Still, the Bucks do feature a selection of NBA talent, and with an old friend on the opposing sideline in Larry Drew, there is always a bit of intrigue.
As mentioned above, the Hawks enter this game with a severe injury problem, and things went from bad to worse on Friday night. Jeff Teague did not travel with the team to Milwaukee on account of an injury to his left ankle, and when adding that to the expected absence of Pero Antic and DeMarre Carroll, the talent advantage that you would expect from Atlanta evaporates a bit.
There are some rotational questions that must be answered by Mike Budenholzer in this game, and the first of those centers around the point guard spot. Shelvin Mack will likely get the start in place of Teague, but with Lou Williams being forced into action on the wing in Carroll's stead, Dennis Schroder will likely see his largest allotment of playing time in quite a while. Whoever is deployed in the backcourt will be dealing with Milwaukee's leading scorer, Brandon Knight (15.9 points, 4.5 assists per game), as the former Detroit Piston has been one of the (very) few bright spots for the Bucks
Up front, the Bucks do have the one thing that the Hawks are currently lacking, and that is depth. Even with another old friend, Zaza Pachulia, on the shelf for Milwaukee, the Bucks still feature a nice selection of big men, highlighted by the multi-talented Larry Sanders and the extremely athletic John Henson. If Milwaukee has it going in any facet, it will likely be up front, and the duo of Elton Brand and Gustavo Ayon (along with Paul Millsap and Mike Scott at the power forward spot) will have their hands full with varying degrees of athleticism and skill from their opponents.
Scoring the ball would appear to be a weakness without a primary creator of offense in Teague, but that is where the "Milwaukee effect" comes into play. Because the Bucks have been so porous on defense, guys like Paul Millsap and Kyle Korver should be freed to create more than you would expect (despite the added attention), and if the Hawks can simply knock down their open shots, they will be in thick of things, even on the road.
It will be incredibly interesting to see which version of the Hawks shows up in Milwaukee on Saturday night, but if Mike Budenholzer can keep his "next man up" attitude going by motivating guys like Shelvin Mack and Gustavo Ayon to positive play, this will become an extremely winnable spot despite the circumstances.
Game Date/Time: Saturday January 25, 8:30 p.m.
Location: BMO Harris Bradley Center, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Radio: 92.9 "The Game" FM