Thursday was a banner day for the recent history of the Atlanta Hawks, as three members of the roster were selected to the 2015 All-Star Game. However, that trio and the rest of the squad will have little time to rest on their laurels, as the Hawks face off with the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday night in front of what is expected to be a jam-packed house.
Jeff Teague, Paul Millsap and Al Horford will represent Atlanta as All-Stars, but each of them will face tests on Friday evening. Portland deploys a uniquely talented roster led by All-Star "snub" Damian Lillard and star big man LaMarcus Aldridge, and there is a popular school of thought suggesting that Lillard will have an onslaught prepared for the Hawks after his unfortunate exclusion on Thursday night.
As far as Aldridge is concerned, the veteran power forward is playing through ligament damage in his non-shooting thumb, and that limits his explosiveness in some areas. Still, Aldridge should see plenty of Al Horford throughout this game, as the "Boss" attempts to slow him down, especially in the mid-range area.
The Atlanta Hawks managed to escape with a 115-107 victory in the first game between these two teams this season, but make no mistake, the Blazers are more than capable of ending the now legendary 17-game winning streak. Portland and Atlanta actually have identical defensive ratings (99.7 points allowed per 100 possessions) this season, and this appears to be a very even match-up on paper, with the obvious caveat of home-court advantage and the injury concerns for Aldridge.
Every game feels like an event right now at Philips Arena, but this one could be a spectacle. Portland enters with a 32-14 record that places them firmly in the top-half of the Western Conference, and with the added intrigue of the Lillard "snub" and Atlanta's star trio receiving all kinds of attention, the eyes of the NBA world will be on this contest.
Let's do it.
Game Date/Time: Friday, January 30, 7:30 p.m. ET
Location: Philips Arena, Atlanta, Georgia
Radio: 92.9 "The Game" FM