By now, you know that the Atlanta Hawks are the toast of the city. Mike Budenholzer and his crown have won 14 consecutive games, tying a franchise record, and they have an opportunity to make history on Friday evening with another victory. However, this particular match-up features an opponent that is more than capable of taking down the scalding hot Hawks, as Philips Arena welcome the multi-talented Oklahoma City Thunder.
Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook form the most prolific 1-2 combo in the NBA today, and when both players are healthy, the Thunder are terrifying. Oklahoma City enters on a winning streak of their own, and while it is only four straight, three of those victories came on the road and the lone home win came against the class of the West in the Golden State Warriors.
The visitors boast only a 22-20 record on the season, but the aforementioned reference to health for OKC is needed when discussing their overall performance. Make no mistake, this is another instance of Atlanta facing off with a team that is their equal (at the very least) from a talent standpoint, and the Thunder are rolling on the heels of an overtime win over the Wizards on Wednesday evening.
From a match-up perspective, Oklahoma City is very interesting. DeMarre Carroll will undoubtedly see the lion's share of time against Kevin Durant, with Thabo Sefolosha and potentiall Paul Millsap as alternate options. The point guard spot may be the "featured" battle, however, as Jeff Teague battles Russell Westbrook, but on the bright side for Hawks fans, Teague has managed to lift his game against the game's best this season, and Westbrook fits that category nicely.
Atlanta's ball movement and offensive execution have been, in a word, incredible during this sustained stretch of excellence, and that will be tested again here. Still, we are certainly running out of ways to temper expectations in this space, and in front of what is already a sold-out crowd at Philips Arena, the sky appears to be the limit for this bunch, almost regardless of opponent.
The Atlanta Hawks will likely be tested on Friday night, and that is a lot of fun, especially when the home team can enter the night with supreme confidence.
Game Date/Time: Friday, January 23, 7:30 p.m. ET
Location: Philips Arena, Atlanta, Georgia
Radio: 92.9 "The Game" FM