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Preview: Hawks return to action as LeBron James visits Philips Arena

The Cavs are in town for the first time this season and this is an interesting spot.

NBA: Atlanta Hawks at Cleveland Cavaliers Scott R. Galvin-USA TODAY Sports

The Atlanta Hawks have not taken the floor in a competitive environment since Saturday but that dry spell ends on Thursday evening. While things did not go well against the Toronto Raptors, the Hawks have enjoyed the opportunity to rest and potentially install new wrinkles. In short, Atlanta will probably need them on Thursday.

The Cleveland Cavaliers are in town and, in case you’ve been asleep for several years, they are led by the best player in the world in LeBron James. The visitors have won a league-best nine consecutive games after a shaky start and, in an interesting twist, James garnered the first ejection of his career on Wednesday evening against Miami.

That could produce a more motivated LeBron in this spot, which isn’t ideal for Atlanta. On the bright side, though, this Cavaliers team does have defined flaws in a way that some of their recent squads have not and, on the defensive end, the Hawks could take advantage of Cleveland’s inattentive behavior at various points in the game.

It will be interesting to see which players get a chance to defend James but, more than anything, what Mike Budenholzer does from a lineup construction standpoint. Atlanta has deployed a frontcourt of Dewayne Dedmon and John Collins in the recent past but, with Dedmon unavailable with injury, Collins presumably slides back to the center spot with a weakened defensive frontline.

Taurean Prince is the logical option to defend James but, without a full-fledged gaggle of other options, schematic shifts could be in order. Fortunately, Kevin Love’s impact could be relatively muted by Atlanta’s size and it will be fun to see Collins and Love squaring off for a wide segment of minutes.

The Cavaliers are seen as favorites to enter Atlanta and win. Frankly, that shouldn’t be a surprise. Still, we should see the best effort from the Hawks given their rested state and a motivation-inducing opponent, leaving plenty of entertainment to follow.

Stay tuned throughout the day for all the latest from Philips Arena.

Game Info

Game Date/Time: Thursday, November 30, 7:30 p.m. ET

Location: Philips Arena

TV: Fox Sports Southeast, Fox Sports Go, NBA League Pass

Radio: 92.9 The Game (Atlanta)