The Atlanta Hawks continue to be the toast of the NBA. As uncomfortable as that is for some diehards (myself included), it is equally fantastic to see the team flourishing in a way to earn national respect, and on Monday afternoon at Philips Arena, the team will put a league-best 12-game winning streak on the line against the Detroit Pistons.
Atlanta enters the annual Martin Luther King Day game on the heels of a four-game sweep on a five-night road trip, and this team continues to cook. The Hawks managed to escape the finale with a win in Chicago despite the absence of Shelvin Mack (exited with a calf injury) and Dennis Schröder (conspicuously benched), and Mack will miss Monday's tilt with that injury concern. Still, Atlanta enters this game at near full-strength, and regardless of Detroit's vast improvement, this is still a team with a record solidly below the .500 mark for a reason.
From a match-up perspective, all eyes will be on the frontcourt. Al Horford has been out of his mind lately, and he is the front-runner for Eastern Conference Player of the Week honors over the last seven days. Horford and Paul Millsap will be dealing with Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe here, and while the Hawks are giving up size, they have enough firepower offensively to neutralize that. The other individual battle to watch will be at point guard, as Jeff Teague continues his All-Star campaign against Brandon Jennings, who is the embodiment of inconsistency and inefficiency for Detroit.
With the recent surge, the Atlanta Hawks are now a top-5 team in the NBA in both offense (107.0 points per 100) and defense (99.8 points per 100). That is elite territory, as they join only the West-leading Warriors in that class, and there is no reason that the excellent play shouldn't continue at home in front of what should be a capacity crowd. If anything, there should be concern about sluggish play at the outset of a long homestand, but if that can be withstood, Atlanta should be in quality shape against an inferior opponent. Stay tuned.
Game Date/Time: Monday, January 19, 2:30 p.m. ET
Location: Philips Arena, Atlanta, Georgia
Radio: 92.9 "The Game" FM