UPDATE: Cartier Martin and Gustavo Ayon has been announced as “out” for tonight’s game, according to the AJC’s Chris Vivlamore. Both players have missed 4+ games and it isn’t a surprise to them out, but the bench will be relatively short-handed. Stay tuned.
Date: December 20, 2013
Tip-Off Time: 7:30 PM ET
TV Channel: SportSouth (Local in Atlanta), NBA League Pass
Radio: 92.9 FM (Atlanta Flagship), Atlanta Hawks Radio Network Affiliates
Live Stream: League Pass Broadband
After an incredible offensive performance in a 124-107 win over the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday, the Atlanta Hawks complete a 3-game homestand with a match-up against the lowly Utah Jazz. On the season, Utah is just 7-21 (and 4-11 on the road), but that doesn’t make this a walkover game for the Hawks, as they do possess some talent to go along with a few major storylines.
This game is being billed as “Paul Millsap faces off with his old team!” so we will begin there. Utah elected to let Paul hit free agency last summer, where he signed a 2-year, $19 million
heist contract with the Hawks. Millsap spent the first 7 years of his career with the Jazz, and it will surely be a bit odd for Paul to face-off with his old team, regardless of the makeover that they’ve experienced.
Local Atlanta product Derrick Favors is one of the best overall players on the Utah roster, and the 6-foot-10 big man will likely draw the attention of Al Horford. On the season, Favors is averaging 13.7 points, 9.2 rebounds, and 1.6 blocks per game, and at age 22, he’s still developing a firm skillset. Fortunately for Al, Favors is one of the few “centers” in the league right now that doesn’t have a significant size advantage, but that’s an interesting battle to monitor.
Don’t look now, but our old friend Marvin Williams is in town! The former #2 overall pick of Atlanta (cough, cough) is currently starting at power forward for the Jazz, and he’s actually having his best season in a while. Unfortunately for Marvin, he gets the assignment (presumably) of Paul Millsap in this one, and it will almost assuredly be a highly-focused Millsap in this game.
At the point, Utah’s lottery pick, Trey Burke, is back in the lineup after missing the beginning of the year with injury, and they have been much better with him on the floor. The former Michigan Wolverine joined the team after a 1-11 start, but they are a much more respectable 6-10 since then, and Burke (who is averaging 13.5 points and 5.1 assists per game) is generating some Rookie of the Year buzz. Jeff Teague played extremely well on Wednesday, and perhaps it’ll be an opportunity to take advantage of Burke’s youth.
Lastly with regard to the Jazz, swingman Gordon Heyward is probably their best player. He leads the team in points (16.8 per game), minutes (36.3 per game), and steals (1.25 per game), and the fact that he is the focal point of the offense means that his former teammate, DeMarre Carroll will be following him around closely. In addition to that previous affiliation with Carroll, Heyward was a college teammate of Atlanta’s Shelvin Mack (on the Butler team that made the NCAA Finals), and the intertwined relationships in this one are very interesting.
As has become a custom, Kyle Korver is in the spotlight again on Friday, as he continues his historic 3-point run. Kyle has made a three in 95 consecutive games, and he was at his absolute best on Wednesday, converting 8 of 10 from beyond the arc in route to a season-high 28 points. Utah ranks in the bottom-10 of the NBA in opponent’s 3-point percentage (37%) and while that lends itself to helping Kyle, it will be a shock whenever the streak finally ends, regardless of opponent.
Our pals in Las Vegas have installed the Hawks as a 7.5-point home favorite in this game (coincidentally, the exact same line as Wednesday night) and it’s a bit interesting that Utah has the same “favor” as Sacramento. The Jazz and their 7-21 record could compete here, given that they’ve been much better with Trey Burke in the lineup, but if the Hawks play well, it should be a comfortable victory.
Stay tuned for updates throughout the night, and a full recap to follow.