The Atlanta Hawks are having a very up and down season. They were the toast of the league with a tremendous 4-1 start before that all came crashing down as their injuries piled up. But they played through all of that and there appeared to be some light at the end of the tunnel.
Then the Hawks bounced back in a major way behind John Collins, Trae Young, and Clint Capela who is playing at a historic level. MLK day appears to be the start of the turnaround but unfortunately for the Hawks the injury bug bit again shortly after.
De’Andre Hunter who had taken a huge leap since last season got hurt, Young missed a couple of games, as did Cam Reddish. The Hawks lost Onyeka Okongwu for multiple games and even Capela had to sit with a hand injury. As a result, the Hawks have lost their last three home games and need to find something to beat the resurgent Toronto Raptors.
Atlanta Hawks key No. 1) Punish their frontcourt
While this may be a strange thing to say about a frontcourt that has the services of Aron Baynes, the Hawks frontcourt has been balling out. Capela has been rebounding like a fiend and defending the paint as though he had paid for it.
John Collins has been a little up and down this season but has the 30 plus point games in the last nine and three double-doubles in the same time frame. He has responded to the challenge of trying to carry this team with all the injuries.
The Raptors lost both Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka the past offseason and as a result, their paint presence has been poor. They waived Alex Len and my guess is they will try and trade Baynes. Until they get it right, this is a good area to attack the 2018-19 champions.
Atlanta Hawks key No. 2) Trap Fred VanVleet
Fresh from his historic 54 point night, Fred VanVleet is primed for another good night. The way to stop this is for the Hawks need to try and trap him near the timeline. If he continues to shoot the way he did against the Orlando Magic then the Hawks are in trouble.
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VanVleet hit an incredible 11-of-14 from deep which is more than the entire Hawks team in some games this season. VanVleet is tough to stop when he gets going but the Hawks have the second-best perimeter defense in the league
Atlanta Hawks starting lineup
The Hawks are missing so many players out of their starting lineup and now have Kevin Huerter listed as questionable due to right ankle soreness on the Hawks injury report. This means that their starting lineup will probably look like this.
Point guard: Rajon Rondo
Shooting Guard: Cam Reddish
Small forward: Solomon Hill
Power forward: John Collins
Center: Clint Capela.
Their key reserves are Danilo Gallinari, Tony Snell, and Brandon Goodwin. If Huerter plays then Reddish moves to the small forward position and Hill moves to the bench. If Young plays he will obviously start with Rondo moving to the pine.