The 2014-2015 regular season got off to a bit of a sour note in Canada on Wednesday, as the Atlanta Hawks fell to the Toronto Raptors despite a valiant comeback bid. However, there is still a hint of optimism with regard to this season, and that manifests itself on Saturday night, as the team returns to a sold-out (!!) Philips Arena for the home opener against the Indiana Pacers.
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Needless to say, the last "battle" with the Pacers did not finish according to plan, as Indiana outlasted Atlanta in a seven-game slugfest during the 2014 playoffs. However, this version of Indiana's team hardly resembles the squad that defeated an Al Horford-less Hawks group.
The Pacers are already missing their superstar, Paul George, for the duration of the season as a result of a severe leg injury, and Lance Stephenson now resides in Charlotte. In addition to that, however, David West (ankle), George Hill (knee) and C.J. Watson (foot) are all expected to miss this game for Indiana, leaving the cupboard quite bare in this match-up, to the point where we are likely to see a great deal of former Hawks great Donald Sloan.
Of course, this isn't something that any Hawks fan will necessarily complain about, and the sparse roster for the Pacers makes this a favorable match-up. Still, Indiana managed to secure a victory (albeit against the hapless Sixers) in the opener, and under Frank Vogel, this team will always defend at a high level provided they have Roy Hibbert to protect the rim.
On the side of the Hawks, there were many takeaways from Wednesday night, but in looking forward to Saturday, there are a few additional questions. Neither Mike Muscala or Pero Antic saw action during the opening loss, giving way to Elton Brand and Mike Scott as the backups in the frontcourt, and it will be intriguing to see if Mike Budenholzer adjusts that rotation given the playoff success that occurred when pulling Hibbert away from the rim.
The remainder of the rotation was somewhat unsurprising on Wednesday, with John Jenkins and Adreian Payne inactive and each of the remaining eleven players (sans Muscala and Antic) seeing reasonably extended time. Because of the fact that Indiana does not have any "go-to" offensive options (with all due respect to C.J. Miles and Rodney Stuckey, among others), Saturday night could be an opportunity for Bud to tinker with rotations, and that is always entertaining.
Regardless, it will be quite nice to have the Atlanta Hawks on the floor at Philips Arena again, and having the benefit of an inferior roster on the other bench should be a positive as well.
Game Date/Time: Saturday, November 1, 7:30 p.m. ET
Location: Philips Arena, Atlanta, Georgia
Radio: 92.9 "The Game" FM