Game On: HaWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWks (soon to be regular Hawks) @ Pelicans

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Published: February 2, 2015

Tonight, the Pelicans welcome the Hawks team that DIDN’T lose the Superbowl last night to the Smoothie King Center. Atlanta is currently riding a 19-game winning streak, easily best in the league this season. The Hawks have not lost since December 26th, and since then rank 3rd in offensive rating, 3rd in defensive rating, and 2nd in Net Rating (behind the Warriors), outscoring opponents by 12.7 points per 100 possessions. With a win tonight, they’d be the 5th team in NBA history to win 20 or more games in a row in the regular season. It is clear that Atlanta presents a formidable challenge for New Orleans tonight, but certainly not an impossible one.

If you’re looking for some good news, it is that the decision to rest Anthony Davis against the Clippers on Friday night paid off, as he’ll be active for the Pelicans tonight. His presence against a front court of Paul Millsap and Al Horford, one of the best in the league, will be pivotal. It will be interesting to see how Monty manages his front court rotation tonight, as balancing Omer Asik’s defensive interior presence with Ryan Anderson’s offensive floor spacing (and even Ajinca’s recent emergence) will be key. If Monty wants to reward Ajinca’s recent strong play, some three-big lineups could be utilized tonight, as Atlanta’s wings not named Kyle Korver are the weakest pieces of their roster (especially if DeMarre Carroll, who is questionable for tonight, doesn’t play). As long as you have a player glued to Korver at all times – maybe Anderson can even be that guy in spurts, as Korver won’t destroy a team off the dribble – that’s a good start to defending this team. For the most part, though, expect the Pelicans to deploy a mix of Evans, Gordon, & Pondexter on Teague & Korver and go from there.

The other side of the ball will arguably be even more difficult for the Pelicans, as Atlanta’s defense has been excellent all season long. To this point, the importance of Tyreke Evans and Eric Gordon’s ball-handling and passing ability in Jrue Holiday’s absence cannot be understated. The Hawks are one of the best teams in the NBA at both forcing turnovers and scoring off those turnovers, along with not fouling or allowing free throws. If the Pelicans revert back to the isolation-heavy offense that allowed the Clippers to climb back into the game on Friday night, then this game could get ugly quickly. If Evans and Gordon continue to make a positive impact in the passing game with and overall team prioritization of crisp ball movement, then the Pels should be able to generate some open looks tonight. Whether or not New Orleans makes the open shots that they have been able to generate reasonably well has been one of the themes to the season, and that will likely continue tonight.

Other notes:

  • Both teams do a pretty good job of limiting opponent fast break points, so one team creating a noticeable advantage in this area could be big in determining the game’s outcome.
  • This game will feature an interesting contrast of styles on both sides of the ball. The Pelicans give up the third most points in the paint per game, but lead the league in points in the paint scored (46.8 per game). Conversely, the Hawks are one of six NBA teams allowing under 39 points per game in the paint this season, but are in the bottom third of the league in points in the paint per game from an offensive perspective. Keep an eye on scoring at the rim on both ends tonight.
  • Pay attention to Atlanta’s “fifth starter” on the perimeter. Whether it’s Carroll or Bazemore, either one is a significant threat to score from 3-point range. Carroll is the only Hawks player besides Korver who makes over 37% of his 3-pointers (39.7%, to be exact) and is averaging more than 1.5 3-point attempts per game, but Bazemore has also converted on 38.6% of his long range attempts this season. Two other Atlanta players to be wary of from long distance are Mike Scott and Paul Millsap, both of whom have made between 36%-37% of their attempts from beyond the arc this season.

Enjoy the game! Let’s pack the SKC and break up that winning streak from those OTHER Atlanta dirty birds.

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