Gametime: 7:00 p.m. EST
It's a bit crazy to think about how much the Hawks have tumbled down the standings this season. If I'm not mistaken, they were the No. 3 or 4 seed in the East at one point. Granted, I think this was when the Atlantic Division was a bumbling disaster.
Now they're eighth, good for the last playoff spot. However, they haven't quite been playing well enough to shut down the possibility of the Knicks gaining steam as they slide out of the playoff race. Still, those chances aren't big. Atlanta has won their last three games and hold a 3.5-game lead over New York.
That said, Atlanta hasn't been playing great. Two of their three recent wins were over the Jazz and Bucks by a combined 7-point margin. Before this win streak, they were 1-14 in their previous 15 games.
With so many injuries to their frontcourt (Al Horford and Gustavo Ayon are expected to be out the remainder of the season, Paul Millsap was out a couple weeks), Atlanta's defense has to rely excessively upon 34-year-old Elton Brand to plug the holes in the paint with some of their first-year talent. Coincidentally enough, Atlanta's opponents have scored more than 100 points against them in 14 of their last 20 games. They haven't held an opponent to 90 points or fewer since playing the Grizzlies towards the beginning of February -- and that's more due to Memphis' love for playing the slowest pace in the league.
Despite clearly missing Horford's impact on both sides of the floor, Atlanta has gotten terrific play from Paul Millsap at power forward. He's a versatile player with a solid shot and a nice skill set inside the arc with the ball in his hands in creating his own shot. Atlanta has some solid three-point shooters on the perimeter, especially with Kyle Korver making nearly half of his attempts, so that's something Charlotte's perimeter defense needs to be aware of. Oh, and I nearly forgot about Jeff Teague, who is quietly still a solid point guard as a passer and scoring threat.
Given Atlanta's defensive woes, I tend to like the Bobcats at home tonight. But you should take that with a grain of salt considering I thought yesterday's game against the Bucks would be an easy win.