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Clippers vs. Hawks preview: Atlanta hosts short-handed Western Conference power

The Hawks wrap up three home games in four nights as the Clippers come calling.

NBA: Los Angeles Clippers at Atlanta Hawks Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

The city of Atlanta is alive with ‘Falcons Fever’ but the Atlanta Hawks are cooking in their own right. Paul Millsap and company have won 12 of the past 14 games and, after a busy weekend, the Hawks are back in action on Monday evening against the Los Angeles Clippers.

While the Clippers enter the evening with a sparkling 29-16 record, the team that will play in Philips Arena isn’t terribly representative of that. Chris Paul, the team’s best player, is out with injury and Blake Griffin has not played since Dec. 18 as a result of a knee issue. Prior to the game, Griffin was upgraded from ‘out’ to ‘doubtful’ but Dan Woike of the Orange County Register reports that he will not play.

With that as the backdrop, the Hawks should be seen as favorites in this spot, especially in light of their recent play. It is fair to point out that Atlanta’s run has come largely against sub-standard competition, but the Hawks are racking up wins and there is something to be said for that.

Match-up wise, the face-off between Dwight Howard and DeAndre Jordan is probably the most obvious point of reference here. Jordan would be the best player for the Clippers given what is available and this is an instance in which Howard will not have to deal with a versatile, floor-spacing big. Still, Jordan is extremely athletic and explosive, and this is also a battle between two of the league’s best rebounders.

Defensively, the Hawks must account for J.J. Redick on the perimeter, as he becomes something of a go-to option for the Clippers in their current alignment. It seems like a safe bet to see Thabo Sefolosha engaged with Redick at the outset, with Kent Bazemore likely to see time on the sharp-shooter at some point. The Clippers do have two creators in Raymond Felton and Austin Rivers as well, and limiting both will be important in preventing the collapse of the defense to free shooters.

While perception might be that this is a tough game for Atlanta, it is certainly quite winnable given the high-profile absences. In fact, the Hawks have a golden opportunity to bank another victory to wrap up a perfect three-game homestand and they enter the evening as Las Vegas favorites. Stay tuned.

Game Info

Game Date/Time: Monday, January 23, 7:30 p.m. ET

Location: Philips Arena

TV: Fox Sports Southeast, NBA League Pass

Radio: 92.9 “The Game” FM