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Portland Trail Blazers vs. Atlanta Hawks Preview

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The Blazers return home looking for a Saturday night win.

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NBA: Portland Trail Blazers at Atlanta Hawks Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Portland Trail Blazers (30-20) vs. Atlanta Hawks (15-32)

Saturday, January 26, 7:00 pm PT
Blazers injuries: Nik Stauskas (available), Damian Lillard (out)
Hawks injuries: Kent Bazemore (out), Miles Plumlee (out), Kevin Huerter (probable)
How to watch on TV: NBCSNW, NBA League Pass (outside of Portland)
How to stream: YouTube Live TV, Playstation Vue, Hulu Live TV, FuboTV, NBA League Pass (outside of Portland)
Radio: 620 AM
SBN Affiliate: Peachtree Hoops

Update: Damian Lillard is sitting out tonight due to rest purposes and Nik Stauskas is now listed as available.

The Trail Blazers come back home on the heels of a victory over the Phoenix Suns at the end of a three-game road swing, which included a key win over the Utah Jazz. Against the Suns, Damian Lillard had 24 points, while Jake Layman and CJ McCollum added 20 apiece. Al-Farouq Aminu dislocated his finger in the first quarter, but he shrugged it off and started the second half. Although the Blazers struggled in the first half, the bench unit provided some needed energy to close out the win.

The Hawks arrive in Portland following a victory over the Chicago Bulls 121-101. The Hawks came out hot against the Bulls, racking up 42 points in the first quarter alone. John Collins scored a career-high 35 points, while the bench unit featuring Jeremy Lin made a critical difference down the stretch for the Hawks: Lin had 15 points and Alex Len had 14 points alongside 10 rebounds. Rookie Trae Young only had five points, but he logged 12 assists.

What to watch for

  • Tempo. The Blazers had difficulty keeping up at times during the first half against the Suns as Phoenix’s players took off in transition, causing the Blazers to make mistakes. In the fourth quarter, Jake Layman and Seth Curry took control, with 12 points combined in two minutes. Atlanta has some young players that can really push the pace, and Portland needs to stay energetic to perform well down the stretch. Second-half energy is crucial to secure the win.
  • Turnovers. After playing a series of clean games, Portland’s turnovers have ballooned in the last two. The Blazers only had four turnovers versus the Cavaliers, six against the Pelicans, and eight against the Jazz. Compare that to the 19 they had in their loss to the Thunder. Though the 16 against the Suns was an improvement, the Blazers need to stop the bleeding and quit causing themselves harm with careless passes.
  • Transition. Along with the Blazers’ ability to keep up with the pace of the game, they need to maximize opportunities in transition. With the rise of Jake Layman, his speed, cuts, and ability to catch high lobs could be a key piece of fast breaks. Additionally, transition defense is a weakness for this Hawks squad: they surrender 125.7 points per 100 possessions.

What they’re saying

Jeff Siegel of Peachtree Hoops dives into how John Collins is making a difference on the offensive boards for the Hawks:

His reputation for unreal athleticism and relentless energy in every way deserved, but those same traits were on display last year and he wasn’t able to have the same effect for Atlanta on the glass as he has this season. Through his experience last season and early on this year, he’s added the one thing that elevates big men from above-average to all-world rebounders – his recognition has improved so much over last season. He’s in position on the glass far more often than he was in his rookie year, which allows him to put that insane athleticism to use consistently throughout a game.

Forbes writer Shlomo Sprung discusses how Hawks rookie Trae Young has shown growth so far this season following the transition from college to the pros:

There’s a tendency among players who were superstar players in college that they feel they still have to be that guy once they get in the NBA, that they need to do everything themselves. But now Hawks center John Collins sees a sense of poise in Young’s game that he didn’t see earlier in the season.

”It’s still not where he wants it to be yet, where anybody wants it to be yet,” Collins said. “But I’ve seen a switch in his calmness and his decision-making.”

Adam Douglas at The Undefeated explains how the Atlanta Hawks use Martin Luther King, Jr. Day to reach out to local students aiming for college:

Inside the newly named and renovated State Farm Arena (formerly Philips Arena), roughly 30 students ranging from grades six through eight engaged in conversations and workshops with league staff and volunteers. The activities were mainly centered on King’s legacy of social activism and inclusion.

These future first-year college hopefuls met with several key figures, including Melissa Pierce, wife of Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce; Scott Pioli, assistant general manager of the Atlanta Falcons; Atlanta Dream guard Renee Montgomery; and Hawks alum Roshown McLeod. They learned about what it means to leave a legacy, the importance of setting goals and pursuing a college education.