The Atlanta Hawks face their first true test of the 2016 season Tuesday night with a trip Cleveland to face the defending champion Cavaliers.
Atlanta enters Tuesday’s game with a 4-2 record but with having lost 11 straight games to the Cavaliers including the playoffs the last two seasons. Cleveland is the last remaining unbeaten team at 6-0 thanks to a high powered offense that has clicked early. The Cavs lead the league in offensive rating at 111.9 per 100 possessions.
Cleveland’s defense ranks in the middle of the pack and has been hurt by several instances where they have let big leads slip away. The Hawks know all too well of what they are capable of on the defensive end of the floor.
Atlanta will be without shooting guard Kyle Korver who is away from the team due to the birth of his son. The Hawks will start Thabo Sefolosha in place of Korver tonight.
The wing is still the matchup to watch despite all the changes that Atlanta made this offseason. LeBron James is a nightmare for every team and the Hawks will throw multiple looks his way on the defensive end of the floor. In last season’s playoff sweep, guys like J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert were huge factors with the Cavs setting records for made three-pointers. So far this season, Cleveland is attempting the second most three-point shots in the league and are tied for third in three-point percentage. They will play the drive and kick game to perfection and the Hawks need to find a way to disrupt that rhythm.
Another intriguing matchup in this game will be how the addition of Dwight Howard changes things for Atlanta. Cleveland has decimated the Hawks on the offensive glass throughout that 11 game losing streak. With Howard, Atlanta is currently a Top 10 rebounding team and have made a habit in the early going of chasing second-chance points of their own. Keeping Howard involved and out of foul trouble will be a big key for the Hawks.
It is hard to look at an early November game as anything approaching meaningful. However, given the recent dominance by Cleveland, the Hawks would like to put an end to that streak sooner rather than later. The schedule is going to ramp up soon for Atlanta and Tuesday’s matchup could be a measuring stick game of sorts.
Game Date/Time: Tuesday, November 8, 7 p.m. ET
Location: Quicken Loans Arena, Cleveland, Ohio
TV: NBA TV, Fox Sports Southeast
Radio: 92.9 “The Game” FM