Portland Trail Blazers vs. Atlanta Hawks Preview: Q&A With ESPN's Antonio Davis

Craig Mitchelldyer-US PRESSWIRE

Antonio Davis -- who can be seen regularly on ESPN's SportsCenter, NBA Coast to Coast and NBA Tonight -- called Blazer's Edge to discuss tonight's Blazers vs. Hawks match-up.

Wednesday, March 5
Moda Center; Portland, OR | 7:30 p.m. PST | Local TV/Radio: CSNNWHD, ESPN; 620 AM
Out for the Blazers: Damian Lillard (probable, gastritis), Thomas Robinson (day-to-day), Joel Freeland | Out for the Hawks: Paul Millsap (day-to-day), Pero Antic (day-to-day), Al Horford, Gustavo Ayon, John Jenkins

In lieu of a normal game preview, I had a quick question-and-answer session with ESPN's Antonio Davis to discuss the match-up tonight between the Blazers and Hawks. Davis -- who played 13 seasons in the NBA from 1993-2006 with the Pacers, Raptors, Bulls and Knicks -- can be seen regularly on ESPN's SportsCenter, NBA Coast to Coast and NBA Tonight.

Blazer's Edge: The Hawks started February 25-21, but have gone 1-11 since with injuries to key players. The Blazers had won 5 straight prior to last night's loss to the Lakers and have recently gotten some injured players back in the rotation. How do these two teams match up talent-wise?

Antonio Davis: Well, talent-wise, I feel that Portland has obviously two All-Stars in Lillard and Aldridge, definitely to me they're deeper from a bench standpoint. But I do feel that the Hawks are finding ways to win basketball games when they play the right way, which has been a little infrequently as of late. So I feel going into this game, Portland will obviously have a huge advantage when it comes to flat-out talent.

BE: Atlanta's been a poor rebounding team all season but even worse the last month. Portland, on the other hand, is a solid rebounding team. If Millsap is out tonight, who will the Blazers have to pay attention to on the boards and how can they make sure to win the rebounding battle?

AD: I've asked that question myself! I think from a Hawks perspective, they've had to kind of gang-rebound at times. The one guy I know they depend on a lot -- who's playing a lot of minutes -- is Elton Brand.

I played against Elton and although physically he doesn't feel like a guy who can rebound at his age, at his size and his athletic ability, he's great at using his body against bigger opponents. That low base, with that experience -- I think they're going to have to pay a lot of attention to him when he gets minutes.

BE: The Hawk's defense allows a lot of easy ball movement for opposing teams and they don't defend the three-point line very well. How do you see Portland's perimeter players taking advantage of Atlanta's defense?

AD: [The Blazers] do a very good job of moving the ball, especially when you have three or four guys who can actually step out and hit that shot. I think LaMarcus Aldridge definitely makes it tough, because you can't play him a lot of times 1-on-1. He does a great job of demanding a lot of attention and it's not necessarily on the block, so even if you're going with him at center and you're going four-around-one, [The Hawks] are really having to defend out on the perimeter more than they want to.

So yes, I think as long as Portland does a great job at moving the ball, I feel they can take advantage of the fact that Atlanta doesn't defend the three-point line very well.

BE: With Millsap out, the Hawks start 6-foot-8, second-year forward Mike Scott and Elton Brand, who turns 35 next week, in the middle. Can they hope to contain LaMarcus Aldridge and Robin Lopez? How?

AD: Like I said, it's difficult even when you have bigger players, but like I said, if you put a guy like Elton Brand on LaMarcus Aldridge and he does a good job at forcing him to take tough shots off the block -- I think that's really the only thing you can do to defend him. And you've always got to keep a body on him because he's so long.

And that's the same thing with Robin. You just have to make sure Robin is not scoring easy baskets. You either put him at the foul line, you stay home -- maybe you don't help as much -- but it's going to be a challenge for both of them, at 6-foot-8, to guard both of those big guys. But I think the one thing I will say is, Portland hasn't done a great job at defending the paint either, so on the other hand, you've got to force them to play defense also.

BE: Since the All-Star break, Damian Lillard has averaged about 25 points a game on over 18 shots a night and 49 percent field-goal shooting. In the same timespan, Jeff Teague has gone for about 23 points on 16 shots per game, shooting almost 53 percent from the field. Who wins the point guard match-up tonight?

AD: You know, I've watched both of these guys play, and they are playing efficient basketball. But I think what Lillard does -- as far as his strengths and the guys he has around him -- it gives him the slight advantage. Just because Jeff Teague has to do so many different things for his team other than score the basketball -- he has to make sure that he's creating shots for some of those other guys. So i'm definitely going to say Damian Lillard has the edge tonight.

Catch the game tonight on ESPN at 7:30 PST with Mark Jones and Jon Barry on the call.

-- Chris Lucia | bedgecast@gmail.com | Twitter

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