This is an interesting feeling. The Atlanta Hawks will look to respond after a rather unexpected blowout victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday night, but the schedule gods did not do Mike Budenholzer and his club any favors. The second leg of the week-long road trip for the Hawks boasts a game against the Houston Rockets on Saturday, and it looks as if Jeff Teague will be absent from the proceedings.
Atlanta's starting point guard was absent during the festivities in Cleveland earlier in the week, and he is once against listed as "doubtful" for this contest. That designation isn't usually handed out lightly by the Hawks, leaving the assumption that Teague will miss the game, and that puts a great deal of pressure on Dennis Schröder and (especially) Shelvin Mack to follow up their high-end efforts from the contest against Cleveland.
With that on the table, the defensive end would have been the primary area of focus against Houston in previous seasons, but not necessarily this year. The Rockets, led by James Harden, have long been seen as an offensive juggernaut, but in 2014-2015, they have been led by a defense that ranks second in the NBA in efficiency, allowing only 97.2 points per 100 possessions. Dwight Howard deserves a great deal of credit for that, but Kevin McHale's team has been defending at an extremely high level, and with Atlanta operating short-handed (if Teague is unable to go), scoring points could be a rare concern here.
More than anything, it will be intriguing to see how this team responds to the type of success that it sustained on Wednesday. The attention of the NBA world was on that game (even if most of it pertained to Cleveland), but Houston is an opponent that is generally considered to be "superior" to the Hawks, and in a road venue, the Hawks are in for an uphill challenge. Regardless of result, we should learn something during this particular contest.
Game Date/Time: Saturday, December 20, 8:00 p.m. ET
Location: Toyota Center, Houston, Texas
Radio: 92.9 The Game