Date: November 9, 2013
Tip-Off Time: 7:30 PM ET
TV Channel: No Local TV, NBA League Pass
Radio: 92.9 FM (Atlanta Flagship), Atlanta Hawks Radio Network Affiliates
Live Stream: League Pass Broadband
The Hawks took a gut-punch loss in their last outing, as the team fell by a 2-point margin in Denver when back-to-back jumpers from Paul Millsap and Al Horford went begging. However, the best medicine for that type of event is a return to the friendly confines of Philips Arena, and when the Orlando Magic are the opponent that awaits the Hawks, that is even better.
In the early part of Saturday, the lead story became the fact that Atlanta will be at (relatively) full-strength for this game.
Gustavo Ayon WILL be active for Hawks against Magic tonight. Been out since Oct. 7 with shoulder injury. #ATLHawks
— Chris Vivlamore (@ajchawks) November 9, 2013
As reported by the AJC’s Chris Vivlamore, big man Gustavoy Ayon will make his regular-season debut with the Hawks after he suffered a shoulder injury during training camp. This is a big win for Atlanta, as Ayon should provide some much-needed rebounding and rim protection as a backup to Al Horford and a compliment to guys like Pero Antic.
In addition, point guard Dennis Schröder returns from suspension to complete the compliment. The Hawks have the far more talented roster in my view, and headlining that will be an interesting dilemma for Jacque Vaughn and company at the power forward spot. Currently, Orlando is playing a ton of “small ball” in the absence of Glen Davis (who is injured), but deploying that unit against Paul Millsap could spell significant trouble for the Magic’s defense.
On the side of Mike Budenholzer, there isn’t anyone to “game plan” for on the Magic, but they do have a nice sampling of young talent. I am thoroughly in the tank for rookie guard Victor Oladipo, but I also think he isn’t anything resembling a point guard, and the more that he plays there, the better for the Hawks. Orlando would normally have a glut of wings, but with Tobias Harris on the shelf, the defense will be focusing on slowing Arron Afflalo, Mo Harkless, and Andrew Nicholson in terms of wing scoring.
The Magic are actually in the top-5 in the NBA through this small sample, as Orlando is only allowing 94.1 points per 100 possessions. I’m certainly skeptical that this production level will continue for the Magic, but it is definitely an indication that they are playing well on defense, with decent showings (15th in the league in PPP) on the offensive side.
The match-up to watch in this one is certainly Al Horford against Nikola Vucevic. Vucevic has been playing out of his mind for the better part of a year, averaging 11.9 rebounds per game for the full season last year (2nd in the NBA) and famously putting up a 30-point, 21-rebound annihilation in Orlando’s surprising win over the Clippers on Wednesday. Horford is certainly up for the challenge, though, and Vucevic will need to soundly outplay him (which I believe is unlikely) for Orlando to have a leg up in the overall action.
Lastly, our friends in Las Vegas have installed the Hawks as a 6.5-point favorite in this game, and that is about right. No matter their record in the early going, Orlando’s roster leaves a lot to be desired, and young teams don’t historically travel well, especially against angry, playoff-caliber teams who just dropped a difficult decision at the end of a road trip.
Things are certainly aligned for the Hawks to even their record at 3-3 on the young season, but there’s a lot of work to do on Saturday night. Stay tuned.