Friday's night loss to the Detroit Pistons had moments of positivity, but with that said, the Atlanta Hawks are still facing their longest losing streak in nearly a decade as they face off with Mike Woodson and the New York Knicks on Saturday night. If there is a bright spot to this particular back-to-back circumstance, it comes in the form of the opponent, as the Knicks are struggling mightily (21-34 overall) and New York is emerging from a double-overtime loss in Orlando on Friday night.
In terms of on-court analysis, the biggest issue right now for the Hawks is health. DeMarre Carroll returned from his hamstring injury on Friday night, but he was only able to log only 23 minutes of playing time in the game, and he was quoted (by the AJC's Chris Vivlamore) as saying that his hamstring felt "weak" after the game. Point guard Jeff Teague missed Friday's game with an ankle injury, and while he was a "game-time decision", it isn't a no-brainer that he plays on Saturday, and his absence paired with that of Gustavo Ayon causes problems.
Against New York, the interior injuries could be less of a factor, simply because of the opponent's roster make-up. The Knicks have a big-time center in the form of Tyson Chandler, but aside from that, guys like Andrea Bargnani and Amar'e Stoudemire aren't exactly "bangers" at this stage, and the Brand-Scott-Millsap trio match up better (on paper) with New York than they did against Detroit.
Offensively, the Hawks should be able to score with efficiency, no matter who is available to play. New York has a bottom-5 defense in the league on a per-possession basis, and with the exception of Chandler, the Knicks don't have much in the way of defensive-minded assets. Jeff Teague's presence would be beneficial in breaking down the switch-filled defense deployed by Woodson, but Shelvin Mack is more than capable, and guys like Kyle Korver could have good looks throughout the evening.
DeMarre Carroll's availability is huge against New York, simply because of his ability to defend Carmelo Anthony. There is no indication (as of now) that Carroll would need to sit out the game, but defending Anthony (who went for 44 points on Friday night) is a tall task even when healthy, and if he can't play his full allotment of minutes, guys like Cartier Martin, Mike Scott, and even Paul Millsap could see time on Anthony.
Eight-game losing streaks simply can't be written off as anything approaching "normal", and there is no way around that. Playing the Knicks in Philips Arena, regardless of the back-to-back, is an ideal streak-busting scenario, and anything short of a win could send the team (and the fan base) into a further downward spiral as the Hawks-killing Chicago Bulls await on Tuesday.
Game Date/Time: Saturday, February 22, 7:30 p.m.
Location: Philips Arena, Atlanta Georgia
Radio: 92.9 "The Game" FM