The Atlanta Hawks have won four games in a row. I repeat, the Atlanta Hawks have won four games in a row. The season-high winning streak comes at a bit of an odd time given how poorly the team was playing (and how injured they were) prior to the first win against the Utah Jazz, but Hawks fans will undoubtedly accept the "new" level of performance as the team returns home to face-off with the 3rd-seeded Toronto Raptors.
Toronto arrived in Atlanta on Monday (in time for Kyle Lowry to appear in NBA TV), giving them a big edge in terms of rest, but the Raptors are coming off of a so-so performance an 8-point home loss to the Phoenix Suns on Sunday. Still, Duane Casey's club is playing incredibly well right now, having won 7 of their last 10, and they continue to stay in the #3 spot in the Eastern Conference standings.
On the Hawks side, this is a healthy roster with the exception of the year-long injuries, and as a result, the cohesion is beginning to return. Paul Millsap was out of his mind on Monday night in Charlotte, and he'll have an important part if Atlanta is able to hold serve at home, especially given that his one-on-one match-up will be against arguably Toronto's least impressive unit at the power forward spot.
From a match-up perspective, Jeff Teague and Kyle Lowry battling at the point guard spot will garner the majority of the headlines. Early in the season, there was a legitimate argument between the two players, but Lowry has stepped on the gas as Teague has regressed, and he has a real claim on being the best point guard in the East this season. The former Villanova Wildcat has a reputation around the league for his mannerisms, but he's a tenacious, physical defender, and that type of temperament has bothered Jeff Teague in the past. On the other end, Teague's defensive issues are well-chronicled, and he'll need to step up to keep things under control.
Toronto's top-6 defense will present a significant challenge to the #BudMovement on the side of Atlanta, but with the way that the team has executed in stretches recently, there is still upside there. It certainly wouldn't be any sort of "upset" if the Raptors came into town and knocked off the Hawks, but any tale of woe with regard to the match-up should be tempered with the fact that the Hawks are healthy and playing at home.
Game Date/Time: Tuesday, March 18, 7:30 p.m.
Location: Philips Arena, Atlanta, Georgia
Radio: 92.9 "The Game" FM