It has been 316 days since the Cleveland Cavaliers set foot in Philips Arena, and things didn't go particularly well for the Atlanta Hawks on that night. Hawks fans will undoubtedly remember May 22, 2015 as the day that the 2014-2015 season unofficially ended, as Atlanta fell into an 0-2 hole against Cleveland in the NBA Playoffs, but because of the way NBA scheduling works, LeBron James and his team make only one visit to Georgia this season.
That visit takes place on Friday night in front of a national television audience.
Unfortunately, the Hawks enter this game on the heels of an underwhelming effort on Wednesday night, as the team fell victim to the Toronto Raptors. Prior to that, though, Mike Budenholzer's squad was playing some of its best basketball of the season, and the Hawks will be looking to channel that success against the top-seeded Cavaliers in this spot. Cleveland hasn't been quite as dominant as their impressive record may indicate, but at the same time, the Cavs are set to enter the East's playoff bracket as the heavy favorite and there is a reason for that.
Without diving too deep into the match-ups, the Cavs still present a singular problem in that Atlanta has real trouble guarding LeBron. DeMarre Carroll isn't walking through that door as a primary option, leaving Budenholzer to play with Paul Millsap and Thabo Sefolosha as the best-case options, with Kent Bazemore's lack of size presenting a real issue in this particular match-up. Elsewhere, the Hawks will be charged with keeping the beefy Cleveland frontcourt off the offensive glass in this spot, which is something that many fans will remember as a problem in the playoff series.
The presence of #NationalTVHawks will always be an interesting factor, but more than anything, it will be an interesting atmosphere at Philips Arena based solely on the opponent in this one. Many things have changed since May 22, 2015 and, hopefully for the sake of the Hawks, that will extend to the result on the scoreboard. Stay tuned.
Game Date/Time: Friday, April 1, 8:00 p.m. ET
Location: Philips Arena, Atlanta, Georgia
TV: ESPN, Fox Sports Southeast, NBA League Pass
Radio: 92.9 "The Game" FM