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Portland Trail Blazers vs. Atlanta Hawks Preview

Can the Blazers come away with a second win in a row?

NBA: Atlanta Hawks at Portland Trail Blazers Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

Portland Trail Blazers (26-40) vs Atlanta Hawks (33-34)

The Portland Trail Blazers find themselves coming off a win for the first time since before the All-Star break. Josh Hart was the hero in Portland’s 127-118 victory over the Washington Wizards, scoring 44 points, just 39 points more than his previous outing against the Utah Jazz.

The Atlanta Hawks are having a disappointing year, hanging around the play-in spot when many though they would be challenging for a much higher seed. The Hawks could still make a charge but they need to make their move soon if they want that to happen. On Sunday evening Atlanta held off the Indiana Pacers 131-128, with Trae Young dropping 47.

Monday, March 14- 4:30 p.m. PT
How to watch on TV: Root Sports NW, NBA League Pass
Blazers injuries: Damian Lillard (out), Nassir Little (out), Jusuf Nurkic (out), Eric Bledsoe (out), Didi Louzada (out), Joe Ingles (out), Justise Winslow (out), Anfernee Simons (out)
Hawks injuries: John Collins (out)
SBN Affiliate: Peachtree Hoops

What To Watch For

  • Trae Young. At least in terms of statistics Trae is having a great year. He’s averaging 27.8 points per game and 9.4 assists, while having his best season in terms of field goal percentage, three point percentage and free throw percentage. He’s been the leading scorer for the Hawks in about two thirds of their games this season, and there is no reason to think he won’t be top scorer again against the Blazers.
  • Good shooting from the Hawks. Atlanta shoots the ball really well. They are at 46.9% from the field (7th in the NBA), 37.3% from three (3rd), and 80.7% from the free throw line (5th). The Blazers...don’t shoot the ball nearly that well. If the game turns into a an all-out shootout, it’s probably best to hide your eyes.
  • Energy. The schedule isn’t doing the Blazers any favors right now. After four games on the road, the Blazers came home for a single game before flying across the country for another five game game road trip. At least the plants got watered. Atlanta on the other hand is on a home back-to-back. Whichever team can find some bounce in their legs might just come out on top.

What Others Are Saying

Michael Cunningham of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution writes that it’s getting late for the Hawks to make a surge.

I keep waiting for this season’s Hawks to become like last season’s Hawks. The expectation that it would happen is why I was fine with general manager Travis Schlenk standing pat at the Feb. 10 trade deadline. The Hawks were finding their way and more internal improvement seemed inevitable. We’d seen the same group do it before, after all.

A month later, I’m wondering if the Hawks have it in them.

Kevin Huerter is being used more as a small forward and it’s helping according to Joshua Buckhalter of Soaring Down South.

He has a plus-2.3 point differential when he is slotted at the shooting guard. That jumps to plus-5.6 when he shifts to the three-spot. Last year, Huerter posted a plus-6.8 differential as a small forward compared to minus-0.3 at the off-guard spot. This is another way the Hawks seem counterintuitive in the era of “positionless basketball”.

Why are the Hawks struggling this season? Bruce Kluckhorn of USA TODAY Sports polled the fans and got a pretty clear answer.

Although far from a scientific poll, I used Twitter to take the pulse of the Hawks fanbase. I asked who deserved the most blame for the team’s struggles this season. Out of 600 voters, the results are as follows.