The hottest team in the NBA is in Los Angeles looking to extend its win streak to nine games. The Atlanta Hawks are undefeated since making the switch from Lloyd Pierce to Nate McMillan as head coach, and they could sweep the season series against the Clippers with a victory Monday.
But while any team should be commended for winning eight games in a row — and the Clippers are well aware of how difficult it is to string together consecutive victories — the Hawks haven’t exactly faced the stiffest of competition in the process. Four of their wins in this stretch have come against the Magic, Kings, Cavaliers, and Rockets. Three of the others came against Miami without Jimmy Butler, Toronto without three starters, and the Lakers without Anthony Davis and then LeBron James for the second half. Even Atlanta’s earlier win against the Clippers came when LA was missing Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, and Patrick Beverley.
The Clippers are still a little shorthanded, as Beverley and Serge Ibaka have both been ruled out for the contest, but Leonard and George are ready to go, and that makes this a compelling matchup of the fourth-place teams in both conferences.
When: Monday, Mar. 22 at 7 p.m. PT
Where: Staples Center, Los Angeles, California
How to watch/listen: Fox Sports Prime Ticket, AM 570 Radio
Opposing perspective: Peachtree Hoops
Projected Starting Lineups
Clippers (27-16): Reggie Jackson, Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, Ivica Zubac, Marcus Morris Sr.
Hawks (22-20): Trae Young, Tony Snell, Kevin Huerter, Clint Capela, John Collins
Clippers: Serge Ibaka (back tightness), Patrick Beverley (right knee soreness) — OUT
Hawks: Trae Young (right quad) — PROBABLE; De’Andre Hunter (right knee) — QUESTIONABLE; Kris Dunn (right ankle), Cam Reddish (right achilles) — OUT
For the season, the Hawks have fairly middling numbers, but they rank as the fifth-best offense and third-best defense over the past two weeks. They rebound the ball well and get to the free-throw line at a higher rate than any team in the league. That makes this an important game for Ivica Zubac, who will have to battle Clint Capela on the glass and defend at the rim without fouling. But it’s also important for the Clippers to gang rebound as a whole and stay disciplined on defense, because Atlanta doesn’t earn free throws simply by getting to the basket; Trae Young is a master at drawing fouls from anywhere on the court, and former Clipper Danilo Gallinari is also crafty in that respect.
The Clippers are searching for some measure of consistency, having failed to notch back-to-back wins since February 14 and 15. They have at least played good defense for the last three games, even if it didn’t result in three wins, and they’ll have to continue that streak against the surging Hawks.
LA is playing its second straight home game (for the first time in a month, no less!), but the Clippers don’t have a rest advantage over the Hawks, who last played Saturday afternoon against the Lakers. They’ll have to earn this one the hard way. It should be a fun night in Staples Center.