The Atlanta Hawks own the NBA’s longest winning streak, emerging victorious in seven consecutive games. The sledding does become more difficult for Trae Young, Nate McMillan and company on Saturday afternoon, however, as the Hawks begin a grueling, eight-game road trip with a visit to STAPLES Center to face the Los Angeles Lakers.
The Hawks and Lakers met in early February, with the Lakers picking up an eight-point victory. That game was perhaps best known for the incident between LeBron James and a couple of courtside fans at State Farm Arena, though Young’s third-quarter explosion was also of note.
This time around, the Lakers will not have Anthony Davis — with more on injuries below — but, after a swoon, Los Angeles has won four straight games as Atlanta arrives. It would be accurate to suggest that the Lakers aren’t quite as dominant without one of the ten best players in the world on the floor, but James is, of course, a high-level MVP candidate and this is a (very) good team.
At present, the Lakers are No. 4 in the NBA in net rating (+6.1) and No. 1 in the league in defensive rating (106.0). That paints an accurate picture of the challenge ahead for Atlanta, though the Hawks are performing at an impressive level to this point in March. The Hawks are now No. 9 in the league in net rating (+1.7) after nudging above the .500 mark on Thursday evening.
Though McMillan is keen to point out that the Hawks are taking a “one game at a time” approach, the schedule is certainly difficult for the rest of the month and into early April. This is also a bit of an interesting spot due to the early tip-off time (12:30 pm local time) and a relatively quick turnaround for Atlanta after the long flight to southern California.
De’Andre Hunter (right knee) remains out for Atlanta, even amid the rumblings of a potential return in the near future. Kris Dunn (right ankle) and Cam Reddish (right Achilles) are also sidelined for this game.
Nathan Knight (left ankle sprain) is officially listed as questionable. Both Clint Capela and Onyeka Okongwu are off the injury report entirely, which is a positive sign.
The biggest injury factor for the Lakers is the continued absence of Davis, who has been out since Valentine’s Day with a calf issue. Elsewhere, James is listed as probable with left ankle soreness, and Jared Dudley (knee) is out. Marc Gasol is off the injury report after missing six games as a result of the NBA’s health and safety protocols, but Lakers head coach Frank Vogel indicated he will not play.
Despite the fact that the Hawks are on the seven-game winning streak, the Lakers are favored to win in the betting market. Los Angeles is currently listed as a 4-point favorite. It is worth noting that the Lakers actually have a better road record (14-5) than home record (14-8) this season, but Frank Vogel’s team is basically the same by net rating (+6.0) anywhere they’ve played and Atlanta will need to play well to keep the winning streak alive.
Game Date/Time: Saturday, Mar. 20, 3:30 pm ET
Location: STAPLES Center
TV: Fox Sports Southeast, NBA League Pass (out of market)
Radio: 92.9 The Game (Atlanta); Hawks Radio Network
Streaming: Fox Sports Go