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Portland Trail Blazers at Atlanta Hawks Preview

The Blazers badly need a victory against the 18-win Hawks.

NBA: Atlanta Hawks at Portland Trail Blazers Steve Dykes-USA TODAY Sports

Portland Trail Blazers (26-34) at Atlanta Hawks (18-43)

Saturday, February 29 - 4:30 p.m. PT
Blazers injuries: Rodney Hood (out), Zach Collins (out), Jusuf Nurkic (out), Damian Lillard (out)
Hawks injuries: Dewayne Dedmon (out), Clint Capela (out), Skal Labissiere (out), DeAndre’ Bembry (questionable)
How to watch on TV: NBCSNW
How to stream: Blazer’s Edge Streaming Guide
Radio: 620 AM
SBN Affiliate: Peachtree Hoops

The Portland Trail Blazers are eight games below .500, yet still find themselves in the hunt for the last playoff spot in the West. The good news is that the Blazers are entering a stretch of games against a host of sub-.500 teams. Unfortunately, the injury list doesn’t seem to be clearing up like fans might have hoped by this point in the season. Regardless of what Blazers are in uniform, if Portland is going to make a run, this is the type of game that they need to win.

The Atlanta Hawks are mostly dreaming of next season, but that doesn’t mean they are a pushover, especially lately. Just ask the Brooklyn Nets, losers to the Hawks by a score of 141-118 on Friday night. Atlanta has held two different ten-game losing streaks this season, but the team seems to have put such ineptitude behind them. With Trae Young and John Collins leading the way, the Hawks are gaining confidence and are not to be taken lightly.

What to watch for

  • Trae Young. Young is filling up the score sheet lately, putting up four double-doubles in a row. Over his last five games he’s averaging 32.4 points and 10.6 assists. Slowing down Young should be priority number one for the Blazers.
  • Protecting the three-point line. One of the reasons that the Hawks are near the bottom of the standings in the East is that they are the worst three-point shooting team in the NBA at 32.7%. Good news for the Blazers, right? No so fast. Over their last two games, Atlanta has shot 42.7% from deep. The Blazers have seemingly rolled out the red carpet and invited teams to put up some of their best numbers from behind the arc against them this season, so facing a team that might be just finding their shooting stroke from distance isn’t exactly what the team from Portland needs right now.
  • Turnovers. Atlanta has had difficulty with turnovers this year, averaging 16.1 per game, tied for second-worst in the NBA. By contrast, the Blazers are fourth-best in the league, giving up only 12.9 per game. If Portland can win the turnover battle, they have every chance of coming out of Atlanta with a win.

What they’re saying

John Collins is an integral part of the present and the future in Atlanta according to Sarah K. Spencer of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

At age 22, Collins is one of the Hawks’ core five members that the team is rebuilding around (including Young, Huerter and rookies Cam Reddish and De’Andre Hunter). For Pierce, this stretch from Collins is encouraging for the Hawks’ future.

Clint Capela hasn’t played a single minute for the Hawks since he landed there via trade. Dallin Duffy of Soaring Down South wrestles with the question of whether he should be shut down for the season:

Capela looks to be the center of the future in Atlanta, and while they need him more in the coming years, fans would still like to see what he brings to the table this season in a preview of sorts. Is that a good idea though?

Pat Benson reports in Forbes on how the Hawks have become one of the best in-game experiences in the NBA:

If you have watched any Hawks games over the past few seasons, then you would understand the deep connection between the team and its city. The newly revamped arena nestled in downtown Atlanta has become a hotspot for A-list rappers and hip-hop artists.

In a time when most franchises try to present a generic and squeaky-clean appearance, the Hawks embrace the dirty south. The most recent example of this brilliant marketing strategy was on Thursday, February 20th – Quavo Night. The front man for the rap group Migos, a group of native North Atlantans, has fully embraced his hometown team.