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Preview: Hawks return home to face Cavs on back-to-back

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Atlanta Hawks v Cleveland Cavaliers Photo by David Liam Kyle/NBAE via Getty Images

The Atlanta Hawks are 4-1 after an impressive road win over the Brooklyn Nets on Friday evening. While that start is encouraging by any description, Lloyd Pierce and his team face an intriguing challenge on Saturday, with the team’s first back-to-back of the 2020-21 season.

The Hawks return to State Farm Arena to face the Cleveland Cavaliers on the second day of 2021 and, on paper, the match-up isn’t overly difficult for the home team. Cleveland is flashing signs of improvement, including a 3-0 start, but the Cavaliers enter on the heels of back-to-back losses and with myriad injury issues.

In fact, the Cavs will be without Kevin Love, Isaac Okoro, Kevin Porter, Dylan Windler and Matthew Dellavedova for Saturday’s game. Still, though, the Cavs have not played since Thursday afternoon, with the Hawks facing the prospect of travel and a lack of rest in advance of this contest.

Cleveland relies heavily on a few players, headlined by local product Collin Sexton. Sexton is averaging 25.8 points per game and shooting 55.8 percent from the floor thus far, with Andre Drummond adding 18.0 points, 14.8 rebounds, 2.4 steals and 2.4 blocks per game. After a brutal defensive performance last season, Cleaning The Glass rates the Cavaliers as a top-five defense to this point, though that almost certainly overrates Cleveland’s actual defensive baseline. At any rate, that will be interesting against a Hawks team that currently rates as the No. 1 offense in the NBA.

On Atlanta’s injury report, the Hawks are still without Onyeka Okongwu, Kris Dunn and Tony Snell, but three more players are also listed for Saturday. Danilo Gallinari (ankle) and Rajon Rondo (knee) are out after both missed Friday’s game, and Brandon Goodwin (left ankle impingement) is listed as questionable as of Saturday afternoon. The rest of the roster is available, however, which is noteworthy on the second night of a back-to-back.

At the time of this post, the Hawks are six-point favorites according to our friends at BetOnline.ag and that sets the stage for the expected result. In the NBA, there are few (if any) easy nights, however, and it will be interesting to see how Atlanta responds to its first rest disadvantage of the young season.

Stay tuned throughout the day for all the latest.

Game Info

Game Date/Time: Saturday, Jan. 2, 7:30 pm ET

Location: State Farm Arena

TV: Fox Sports Southeast

Radio: 92.9 The Game (Atlanta); Hawks Radio Network

Streaming: Fox Sports Go; NBA League Pass (out of market)