It was a rough Sunday afternoon in Toronto as the Hawks blew a double-digit 4th quarter lead to the Raptors, but there is no room for dwelling on that loss as the team returns to Philips Arena to face the Phoenix Suns on Monday evening. Because the New York Knicks lost (in hilarious fashion) on Sunday night, Atlanta maintains a 3-game lead for the 8th and final playoff spot, but every game is crucial at this point, and that places the magnifying glass on this one.
After a five-game winning streak, the Hawks have fallen flat in their last two outings, and while some of that can be traced to the absence of Kyle Korver from the lineup, the defensive end has been the issue in both defeats. Korver's status will likely be updated closer to tip-off, but if he can't go, Mike Budenholzer will again be forced to play small with two-guard fronts that include Shelvin Mack, Dennis Schröder, and/or Lou Williams, leaving the defensive side of the ball vulnerable once again.
Phoenix is playing incredibly well in recent days, having won 3 straight and 5 out of their last 6, and they are certainly not a desirable team to encounter after having defensive problems. The Suns put up 127 points in a road win against Minnesota on Sunday, and while it is nice to have them on a road back-to-back, the Goran Dragic-Eric Bledsoe backcourt combination (among other things) is a tough match-up for anyone to handle. On the bright side, Phoenix doesn't employ a ton of a size on the perimeter, and that should alleviate at least some of the concern should Kyle Korver be sidelined for a third straight game.
Monday night's contest should be an entertaining one at the very least, as both teams rank in the top half of the league from a pace perspective, but from the prospects of a win for Atlanta, it isn't the best match-up. Still, it isn't a spot that is too ugly for the Hawks, and with a positive performance (i.e. similar to the first 3 quarters in Toronto), it could turn into a quality win.
Game Date/Time: Monday, March 24, 7:30 p.m.
Location: Philips Arena, Atlanta, Georgia
Radio: 92.9 "The Game" FM