There's been a some concern about the Hawks' performance in February. It seems like it may be too few games to say whether there's a real decline or if this is just an unfortunate stretch, but do you have any theories about what's going on? Is there anything that really concerns you or do you think they'll pull out of it?
I don't think there's any reason to be worried about the Hawks. They've had some setbacks, exemplified by their blown 18-point lead against Boston and the utter beatdown they received at the hands of the Toronto Raptors, but all together, I think there's no cause for alarm. Atlanta beat Golden State in February and almost won at Memphis. I think what we've seen is a regression to the mean after their perfect January. My only real concern is that Pero Antic has become almost useless offensively, and that kind of negates the defensive positives he brings to the floor. He was key in the Hawks' huge win streak, and his production has fallen off a cliff since February. He's never been as good a shooter as people thought, but it just feels like he's helpless at this point. I think most of us Hawks-watchers would like him to seem a little less so.
Last time these two teams played, it was just Rondo's second game with Dallas and Atlanta was missing Jeff Teague. Assuming Teague is able to play tonight, how do you think having these two point guards healthy and better-adjusted to playing with a new team changes the dynamic?
Well I'm not sure how much I can speak to Dallas, but for Atlanta, having Teague healthy is critical. I know he's been sick recently, so I'm not 100% sure he's playing tonight, but if he is, he's the cog of this train. Schröder played well in Teague's absence, but Teague brings a different dynamic. He's a more under-control player and you get the sense everything he does is with a purpose. Plus, subbing Schröder in for Teague allows for the Hawks' relentless attack to continue. There are no breaks when Dennis comes in, because he's a petal-to-the-metal type of player. He's an ideal back-up, constantly energizing the second-unit and sometimes swaying a game entirely.
Aside from Teague and Rondo, are there any match-ups you're looking forward to seeing tonight?
I'm excited to see the frontcourt match-up. Dirk and Tyson Chandler vs. Horford and Millsap. They're two different implementations of ideas. Dallas has the floor spacer/ transcendent scorer and the rim protector, while Atlanta just combined two do-it-all big men that grind you down over the course of the game. I'm curious to see how effective they'll be against Chandler, and I'm curious to see how the Mavs are able to work inside against Atlanta's smaller but aggressive interior D.
Predictions? I'll go with a Hawks win. They were humiliated by the Raptors only two games ago. They're aiming to earn back some respect and this is a good opportunity to do so.