After a period in which the team lost five out of six games, the Atlanta Hawks are rolling right now (at least by comparison) on the heels of two consecutive victories. Of course, my tongue is planted firmly in cheek as I type that sentence, but the Hawks did look much better in a win over Dallas before utterly decimating the Philadelphia 76ers on Wednesday night.
Friday's task is a difficult one, however, as Atlanta hosts Paul George and the Indiana Pacers. This game is noteworthy for many reasons, including the fact that it is the rare ESPN telecast and a rare 7:00 pm tip-off on a Friday evening. Beyond the logistics, though, the Hawks must aim to continue their offensive renaissance from the past two contests.
Though it is surprising to be sure, the Atlanta Hawks actually have the best defensive rating (95.9 points allowed per 100 possessions) in the NBA over the past 15 contests. The team has certainly tightened things up on that end of the floor, but unfortunately, an 8-7 record has accompanied that strong defensive effort. Part of the reason for that has been lackluster offense, but the last two games have produced a 112.7 offensive rating (with the asterisk of Philly's defense included) and that is encouraging.
However, the Pacers rank as a top-five defensive team in the NBA this season, and they have the mobility and athleticism to match up with Atlanta's ball movement offense. It will be interesting to see how the team responds to what should be an engaged effort from Indiana, and with a star like Paul George in town, things always get a bit more intriguing. Nonetheless, this should be a hotly contested match-up that could serve as a potential playoff preview, and ESPN's viewers (as well as those looking for Bob and 'Nique on FSS) will be able to take in the festivities.
Let's do this together.
Game Date/Time: Friday, February 5, 7:00 p.m. ET
Location: Philips Arena, Atlanta, Georgia
TV: ESPN, Fox Sports Southeast, NBA League Pass
Radio: 92.9 "The Game" FM