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Portland Trail Blazers vs. Atlanta Hawks Preview

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The Blazers host the Hawks on Sunday. Can Portland get its firsts home win of the season?

NBA: Sacramento Kings at Atlanta Hawks Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Portland Trail Blazers (3-6) vs. Atlanta Hawks (3-5)

Sunday, November 10 - 6:00 p.m. PT
Blazers injuries: Zach Collins (out), Jusuf Nurkic (out), Paul Gasol (out), Skal Labissiere (questionable), Rodney Hood (out), Hassan Whiteside (questionable)
Hawks injuries: John Collins (suspended), Allen Crabbe (out), Chandler Parsons (out), Vince Carter (out), Evan Turner (out), Kevin Huerter (probable), De’Andre Hunter (probable)
How to watch on TV: NBCSNW
How to stream: Blazer’s Edge Streaming Guide
Radio: 620 AM
SBN Affiliate: Peachtree Hoops

The season hasn’t gotten off to the start that the Portland Trail Blazers hoped it would. Portland has not yet won on their home court, going 0-3 at the Moda Center. Injuries continue to hurt the Blazers, the latest being Rodney Hood, who missed most of Friday’s loss with back spasms, and Skal Labissiere, who rolled his ankle late in the same game. Their availability for Sunday’s game is uncertain. Portland recalled Jaylen Hoard and Moses Brown from the G League on Saturday.

The Atlanta Hawks are not off to a great start either. They have lost two in a row since John Collins—their second-leading scorer and leading rebounder—was suspended 25 games for PED use. Their visit to Portland kicks off a five-game road trip.

What to watch for

  • Can anyone besides Damian Lillard step up? Portland’s All-Pro point guard deserves no blame for the team’s slow start. After scoring 60 points on Friday, Lillard is averaging 33.3 points per game on 49.5 percent shooting. The Blazers need someone else to step up and help carry the burden on offense. CJ McCollum has not been shooting well, just 38 percent from the field and 32.6 percent from three. New additions Kent Bazemore (37.5 percent) and Mario Hezonja (32.7 percent) have not been able to get into any offensive rhythm either. Anfernee Simons has played well with increasing responsibility. The 20-year-old may need to step up even more—unless Lillard goes for 70.
  • Slowing down Trae Young. Atlanta’s second-year guard has improved in his sophomore season. After averaging 19.1 points on 41.8 percent shooting his rookie year, Young is currently averaging 25 points on 47.7 percent shooting. His three-point shooting has improved significantly as well, up to 39.3 percent from 32.4 last season. With John Collins out, Young and Jabari Parker are the only Hawks players averaging double figures. Slowing down Young (who is also averaging 8.1 assists) goes a long way to slowing down Atlanta’s offense.
  • Some missed homecomings. Sunday would be Evan Turner’s first game back in the Moda Center since Portland traded him for Kent Bazemore. Unfortunately, Turner will miss the game with some Achilles pain. Former Blazer Allen Crabbe, whom the Hawks acquired from the Nets this offseason, will also miss the game. Kent Bazemore will have his first chance to go up against the team he spent the past five seasons playing for. Portland needs Bazemore to play well. So far this season the Blazers have won when Bazemore has scored nine or more points and lost when he has scored eight or fewer.

What they’re saying

Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer wrote how Trae Young’s improved three-point shooting has made him more like Steph Curry:

Another big influence on Young is Steph Curry. Blame that on Young’s explosive freshman season at Oklahoma, when Trae was a small point guard making defenses look foolish by launching 3s from outer space. He led the nation in scoring while the Warriors were making a run at their third title in four seasons. But the truth is that Young was never a shooter like Curry; as I wrote this preseason, Curry never shot worse than 38.7 percent from 3 in college or the pros, while Young has never shot better than 36 percent. Young was a theoretical knockdown shooter, but not the real deal. Maybe not until now

Sarah K. Spencer of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution wrote about Atlanta’s three-point shooting struggles after their loss on Friday:

The Hawks entered Friday’s game shooting 29% from 3-point range, which ranks 29th in the league. In the first half, Kevin Huerter was the only Hawk to make a 3-pointer, going 2-for-4, and as a team, the Hawks shot 2-for-14 from 3-point range, or 14.3%, through two quarters. That evened out a little bit in the second half, going 9-for-28 total (32.1%), but that’s still not the production they want. A lot of the Hawks’ 3-point attempts were taken off the dribble, which adds difficulty and could be contributing to struggles behind the arc. “We want assisted 3’s, and we need guys that can get in the paint,” [Head coach Lloyd] Pierce said. “That’s why we keep talking about ‘downhill.’ So we’re getting 3’s. We’re not getting the ones we want just yet. And that’ll change.”

BONUS: On the Blazer’s Edge Podcast, Tara Bowen-Biggs (aka Team Mom) talked with Jeff Siegel from Peachtree Hoops about how Atlanta’s season has started. The two previewed Sunday’s matchup as well. Check it out below: