Before the 2019-20 season even began, it was easy to see the challenge awaiting the Atlanta Hawks in mid-November. That test begins in earnest on Sunday evening, when Lloyd Pierce’s team takes on the Portland Trail Blazers to kick off a five-game road trip against quality Western Conference opponents.
Unfortunately for Atlanta, the team begins the journey on the heels of back-to-back home losses. The Hawks flopped considerably on Wednesday against the Chicago Bulls and, while the team’s effort was (much) better on Friday against the Sacramento Kings, the result on the scoreboard was still unfavorable for the home team.
Still, Sunday is a new day and Atlanta will need to perform well in order to pull off the road upset. The Hawks enter as 8.5-point underdogs in the first game of the trip, even with the Blazers notably struggling in the early going. Portland has dropped four straight games on the way to a 3-6 record and the Blazers currently sport one of the league’s ten worst defenses at this juncture.
From an injury standpoint, both teams will be short-handed in this match-up and there is some considerably uncertainty on Portland’s side when it comes to player availability. The Hawks will be without Vince Carter (personal) in this game, leaving an opening at the backup power forward position behind Jabari Parker. Beyond that, Kevin Huerter (knee) and De’Andre Hunter (shoulder) are listed as probable, with Allen Crabbe (knee) upgraded to doubtful in this contest, even if he is unlikely to make his 2019-20 debut on Sunday. For the Blazers, Zach Collins (shoulder) joins Jusuf Nurkic on the sideline, weakening the frontcourt, and Rodney Hood (back), Hassan Whiteside (foot) and Skal Labissiere (ankle) are listed as questionable.
The headline match-up of the evening comes at the point guard spot, where Trae Young takes on Damian Lillard. Young is, of course, an up-and-coming star and he’ll take on an established superstar in Lillard. Quite honestly, the intrigue speaks for itself when discussing two of the more dynamic perimeter players in the NBA and the Blazers also add another strong piece to the mix in CJ McCollum.
Finally, there is an additional piece of interest with the Hawks facing an old friend in Kent Bazemore, though the prospects of a “challenge” scenario evaporated with Evan Turner scheduled to miss this game with an Achilles issue. There is nothing easy on the horizon for the Hawks on this trip, though Portland’s recent struggles and their defensive issues provide optimism for Atlanta.
Stay tuned throughout the day and be encouraged to utilize the comments below as a “game thread” for the action.
Game Date/Time: Sunday, Nov. 10, 9:00 pm ET
Location: Moda Center
TV: Fox Sports Southeast, NBA League Pass
Radio: 92.9 The Game (Atlanta); Hawks Radio Network
Streaming: Fox Sports Go, NBA League Pass