The Atlanta Hawks left town on New Year’s Eve a day after defeating a short-handed Portland Trail Blazers -leading scorer Damion Lillard missed the game with an injury- 104-89. The defensive effort during the second half of the victory -the Hawks held Portland to 17 third quarter points- was one of the best efforts of the season for the team on that side of the floor.
Road games against three teams under .500 plus a rematch with Portland looked to be the best case scenario for a team looking to improve their fate in what could easily be called a down year. Looks however have been quite deceiving for the Hawks.
Starting with a 104-103 loss in Phoenix on Jan. 2, the Hawks have lost four consecutive games including a 21-point loss in Portland. Lillard was back for this one and scored 14 points to go with six assists in 28 minutes- and a 19-point loss to the Lakers on Sunday, Jan. 7.
On the following night they lost another one-point game to the Clippers 108-107 on a three-pointer by former North Carolina State star CJ Williams, who spent the past few months in the G League. The Hawks found all sorts of ways to lose on the this trip and a return to the sometime friendly confines of Philips Arena is well overdue.
Starting on Fri., Jan. 12 the Hawks return to Atlanta for a six-game home stand against what currently stands as three playoff teams and two others that have been playing well of late.
The Brooklyn Nets make their second trip to Atlanta this season, the two teams spilt a home and home series early in December with Atlanta winning 110-90 at home on Dec.4.
On Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, as has been custom for years, the Hawks will host an afternoon game. This year’s guest will be the San Antonio Spurs at 3 p.m. In their only other meeting this season, the Spurs defeated the Hawks 96-85 on Nov. 20. The Hawks were behind by 15 points after three quarters before mounting a comeback that was halted a couple of big baskets by Spurs veteran and future hall of Manu Ginobili who scored 16 points of the bench.
On Wednesday, New Orleans comes to town followed by a few days off before hosting the fast-improving Chicago Bulls on Saturday night. On Thu., Oct. 26 the Hawks allowed a huge lead to slip through their fingers to what was then a one-win Bulls team. Chicago has won four of their last 10 games. Atlanta has won three of their last 10 games.
On Mon., Jan. 22 and Wed., Jan. 24 the Hawks will host the Utah jazz and Toronto Raptors to close the home stand. The Jazz are currently 10th in the Western Conference standings and the Raptors are the number two seed in the Eastern Conference. Both teams are needing wins to further improve their postseason picture. The Hawks, well they just need to win a few games.