UPDATE: Giannis Antetokounmpo is OUT for the Bucks. Alex Len and Jabari Parker will not play for the Hawks.
The NBA took center stage on Christmas Day but, for the Atlanta Hawks, it was the centerpiece of a three-day break from game action. The Hawks did return to practice on Thursday afternoon but, from a public-facing standpoint, the last memory of Atlanta was a disappointing loss in Cleveland on Monday evening. On Friday night, though, the Hawks return to action with a challenging home tilt against the Milwaukee Bucks.
The Bucks enter this contest with the best record in the East, even after losing a high-profile matchup on Christmas. Giannis Antetokounmpo is operating at an MVP level, Khris Middleton is performing quite well and, even with Eric Bledsoe (avulsion fracture) on the sideline, the Bucks arrive in Atlanta with a significant talent advantage.
In fact, the Bucks are the only team in the NBA that currently fields top-two units on both offense and defense. That is a rather terrifying recipe for any opponent and, in short, Milwaukee should be properly motivated after what transpired in their last game.
On the Atlanta side, injuries could be a concern, with Alex Len (left ankle sprain) listed as doubtful for this contest. Jabari Parker (right shoulder impingement) and Evan Turner (right hamstring strain) are listed as probable but this is a spot where Len’s absence would certainly be felt. It should be emphasized, though, that John Collins will take the floor for the second time this season, lessening a blow a little bit against Antetokounmpo and Milwaukee’s frontcourt.
Though the Hawks are 0-2 against the Bucks this season, both face-offs were competitive and that could provide some optimism. Atlanta’s recent performance — with eight straight losses and 19 of the 21 on the wrong side — doesn’t inspire confidence against one of the NBA’s best but, for whatever reason, Trae Young and company have found relative success in this matchup this season.
At present, the Hawks are 11-point home underdogs, further illustrating the difficulty of this test. Still, Atlanta should be well-rested and motivated to show up here, and the Hawks faithful will be glad to see basketball again after a brief hiatus.
Stay tuned throughout the day and be encouraged to utilize the comments below as a “game thread” for the action.
Game Date/Time: Friday, Dec. 27, 7:30 pm ET
Location: State Farm Arena
TV: Fox Sports Southeast, NBA League Pass
Radio: 92.9 The Game (Atlanta); Hawks Radio Network
Streaming: Fox Sports Go, NBA League Pass