When: 3:30 p.m. EST
Where: Phillips Arena, Atlanta, GA
TV / Radio: Fox Sports Southeast / WFNZ 610 AM, 92.9 FM "The Game"
Since the All-Star Break the Hawks and Hornets have bee moving in the opposite directions. The Hawks seemingly have yet to recover from the reality that reared its unattractive head at the trade deadline — that is, that their core as currently constructed, the same one that finished atop the Easter Conference only two years ago, may just not be enough. Both former All-Stars Jeff Teague and Al Horford were on the trading block, a white flag of sorts, and the team seems to simply not have recovered.
The Hornets however, have chosen the blue pill. They're all in for this year and for good reason(s). A failed playoff run could result in some personnel changes in the front office, and frankly the team is only beginning to test their still relatively young nucleus. Everyone is healthy (except for Michael Kidd-Gilchrist) and the Hornets will look to recapture the early success of the this season that even saw them sit in second in the Eastern Conference — albeit for a brief time.
Most importantly perhaps, the Hawks are a game up on the Hornets and currently hold the 5th seed. With a very difficult schedule to end the season, the Hawks will be as motivated as ever to defend their home against the Hornets, who finally see an end to this six game road trip. Playing in Phillips Arena is never easy, given their creepy in-game organ music and Jeff Teague dribble drives, something that has given Kemba Walker issues in the past. Nic Batum in particular will need to regain form and help Kemba shoulder some of the offensive load, so that Walker will be able to lock in on the defensive side of things.
This is the Hornets' chance to tie up the season series with Atlanta, and one more step towards perhaps the best regular season finish for the Charlotte franchise since the team came back to the city — should be fun.