UPDATE: The Blazers will be without BOTH members of their starting backcourt, with Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum unavailable for Monday's game. Details here.
Don't look now, but the Atlanta Hawks have won three consecutive games and (gasp) they are playing really well.
Okay, it is fair to remind everyone that one of those wins came in blowout fashion against the hapless Philadelphia 76ers, but after that, Mike Budenholzer's team has strung together back-to-back road wins against solid opponents in Boston and Orlando. During the three-game streak, the Hawks are scoring 112.2 points per 100 possessions, and that is a welcome change from the offensive impotence of the previous stretch. Now, Atlanta will look to keep the momentum flowing as they host the Portland Trail Blazers for their annual visit to Philips Arena.
The Blazers are in the midst of something of a rebuild, and it is reflected in the standings with an 11-18 mark. Portland does have a strong backcourt in Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum, but the Blazers lack star power in the frontcourt, and that is where Atlanta will likely make their mark in this particular match-up. The Blazers are quite adept at scoring (103.2 points per 100 possessions), but given that their backcourt isn't exactly made up of stoppers (especially Lillard), it comes as no surprise that Portland is a bottom-10 defensive team in the NBA this season.
In addition to the on-court optics, this is a bit of an odd spot for both teams. Each squad will be participating on the second day of a back-to-back, and both were forced to travel back from Florida. However, Portland played an early tip-off on Sunday while the Hawks did not complete their game in Orlando until after 8:00 pm ET, and that could be a small advantage to the visiting Blazers.
To be blunt, this is a game that the Hawks should win, as they are soundly better than the Blazers and playing on their home floor. Still, it is always tough to gauge a back-to-back with travel, and for all of Portland's faults, they are a well-coached basketball team led by former Hawks coach Terry Stotts.
It should be a fun night at Philips Arena, and we'll be here throughout the day. Stay tuned.
Game Date/Time: Monday, December 21, 8:00 p.m. ET
Location: Philips Arena, Atlanta, Georgia
TV: Fox Sports Southeast, NBA League Pass
Radio: 92.9 "The Game" FM