After a hiccup with "back to back" losses before and after the All-Star break, the Atlanta Hawks righted the ship with a decisive win over the Milwaukee Bucks on Sunday afternoon. Following that win, however, the Hawks face a difficult challenge, as the Dallas Mavericks invade Philips Arena on Wednesday evening.
The Hawks have struggled offensively at times in the recent past, but the defensive intensity ramped up considerably on Sunday, and that will be desirable again against Dallas. The Mavericks have held a top-5 offense for the duration of the season, and even with the somewhat troublesome integration of point guard Rajon Rondo, Dallas is extremely well-coached (hi, Rick Carlisle) and talented with creators like Monta Ellis and future Hall of Fame forward Dirk Nowitzki.
Nowitzki is the biggest match-up issue for Atlanta, and it is safe to assume that Mike Budenholzer will throw different looks at him throughout the evening. Dallas is dynamic in that they can score from many angles (even with Chandler Parsons on the shelf for this match-up), but in the same breath, they are not centrally focused on a singular entity like they have been in the past, and it will take a full team effort on the defensive end to hold them in check.
On the offensive side, it would be nice to see the Hawks knock down some shots. Dallas has been nothing but league-average defensively this season, but Atlanta shot just 33% from the field and 21% from three against Toronto and followed that up with a subpar 40% FG and 30% 3-PT against Milwaukee. At this point, it feels like an accident when the local squad misfires in this way, but seeing the ball glide through the rim in the early going could be big to keep the focus level high throughout the evening.
Lastly, point guard Jeff Teague was absent from practice with illness on Tuesday, placing his status somewhat up in the air for Wednesday. The Atlanta Hawks went into Dallas and escaped with a surprising (at the time) victory over the Mavericks earlier in the season without Teague, but nothing is guaranteed here against a quality opponent, even if Teague is able to go. Stay tuned throughout the day for the latest from Philips Arena.
Game Date/Time: Wednesday, February 25, 7:30 p.m. ET
Location: Philips Arena, Atlanta, Georgia
Radio: 92.9 "The Game" FM