Bad timing: A Hawks-Bucks Preview

Atlanta Hawks

It’s Zaza Homecoming Day. The good folks of Atlanta absolutely love themselves some Zaza Pachulia after the big man from the Republic of Georgia spent eight seasons playing for them in the State of Georgia.

Under coaches Mike Woodson and Larry Drew, Zaza’s teams made the playoffs in the final six of those eight seasons, inspiring great moments like this one. Pachulia was brought into Milwaukee to be the backup center under Larry Drew. However, Pachulia’s natural leadership abilities and like-ability among his peers have made him a seamless fit under a new regime led by Jason Kidd.

What to Watch For: Bucks (14-15)

It will be interesting to see what sort of reaction the Bucks get from a long players-only meeting following the home loss to the Hornets.

Who are the Bucks at this point? They started the season as Kidd’s defensive warriors of Young Length. Then they turned into a team that could ride high with Giannis and Jabari as two of the team’s focal points on offense. Now? They’ve scrapped for a couple of weeks as the cagey group of undersized vets that shares the ball, shoots well and plays energetic yet mediocre defense.

If they can’t suddenly regain their early-season defensive magic as their bench bigs work back into the rotation, then the Bucks need to figure out a way to keep shooting well and sharing the ball so they can hold onto their fallback plan. That task gets a lot more difficult when the ball is sticking with Brandon Knight as it tended to do Tuesday night.

What to Watch For: Hawks (21-7)

Remember when the Bucks had that early-season game against Oklahoma City, when Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook were unable to play due to injuries, and it was the perfect time to play the Thunder?

Well, this game is like that one, but just the opposite. The Hawks are healthy and they have won 14 of their last 15 games.

One of the things the Hawks do really well is take teams out of their offensive rhythm early in the game. Since Thanksgiving, Atlanta has a defensive rating of 89.7 in first halves, a mark that is more than four points better than the next-best team.

The Hawks aren’t blessed with the world’s greatest defenders, and the ones that they do have — Thabo Sefolosha and Kent Bazemore — currently play from the bench, but they do play cohesively and they have improved a bunch from the beginning of the season.

Logistics:

Time – 6:30 p.m. CST  TV – FS-Wisconsin  Radio – 620 WTMJ

Injury Report

Bucks: John Henson (foot; questionable); Damien Inglis (post-surgery — right ankle; out); Jabari Parker (left ACL injury; out)

Hawks: Pero Antic (strained groin; questionable)

Projected Lineups

Bucks: Brandon Knight – O.J. Mayo – Giannis Antetokounmpo – Johnny O’Bryant – Larry Sanders

Hawks: Jeff Teague – Kyle Korver – DeMarre Carroll – Paul Millsap – Al Horford

Choose the Form of the Destructor: ???

The leading scorers in each of the Hawks’ last 7 games have been:

Magic: Paul Millsap
Magic (again): Jeff Teague
Bulls: Al Horford
Cavaliers: Shelvin Mack
Rockets: Kyle Korver
Mavericks: Dennis Schröder
Clippers: DeMarre Carroll

Atlanta is 6-1 in those games, and the leading scorer had at least 20 or more points in each of those games. It’s a crazy Spurs-ian balance, not at all a shock given that Coach Mike Budenholzer, hired before the start of the 2013-14 season by Atlanta, brought an offenive approach to the Hawks like Gregg Popovich’s in San Antonio.

Predicting the Hawks’ leading scorer is like predicting a roulette wheel.

Prediction: These two teams play twice in two days, the Bucks win one.

Categories: Game Previews

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