The Bobcats will face the Atlanta Hawks in the last of a four-game homestand tonight. The Bobcats have won five of their past six games, and are just won away from matching last season’s win total. It won’t be an easy task, as Atlanta finding their rhythm as well. Atlanta has won four out of their last five, most recently holding off the winless Washington Wizards.
It will be the first chance for Bobcats fans to see a different Atlanta team, after dealing leading scorer Joe Johnson to Brooklyn. It’s been hard for Atlanta to find consistent scoring to replace Johnson’s presence, and it’s contributed to Atlanta’s offensive woes. Currently they’re 23rd in PPG and 24th in offensive rating.
They’ve also been a poor rebounding team, currently ranked last in total rebounds and 29th in offensive boards. Josh Smith is their top scorer at 15.6 ppg, but is shooting just 42.7% from the field. He’s backed by Al Horford’s 15.4 ppg, and 52.1% from the field.
Atlanta is winning games through their defense. Atlanta is first in the league in defensive rating. Larry Drew has done a great job getting new personnel to play on that side of the ball. In turn the Hawks rank in multiple elite categories defensively.
opponents PPG – 5th
opponents FTA – 1st
opponents FG% – 7th
opponents three point % – 2nd
turnovers – 5th
On the road so far the Hawks are scoring more than they do at home, while giving up less points. Atlanta’s play right now isn’t discussed much, but they are playing some good basketball and could be tough for a middle-of-the-pack Bobcats offense.
The guard rotation for the Bobcats will again need to come up big for this team to win. Kemba Walker, Ramon Sessions and Ben Gordon have all been good this season. Kemba leads the team with just under 19ppg, while Sessions is averaging over 16ppg and getting to the free throw line at a rapid rate. It will definitely be interesting to see how much Sessions gets to the line against this Hawks defense, considering they aren’t sending their opponents to the line. The Hawks aren’t big in the backcourt, with Jeff Teague, Devin Harris, Lou Williams and Anthony Morrow, so it wouldn’t be shocking to see some smallball from both teams.
As far as individual matchups go, the most interesting could come in the frontcourt. While Smith has been struggling, he and Horford are capable of going on hot streaks offensively. The Bobcats can guard both a bunch of different ways, and one way could be throwing Michael Kidd-Gilchrist at Smith. MKG’s defense has been as good as advertised, and Smith is the type of PF he can crossmatch against. Bismack Biyombo will probably get some tries as well. I’m not so sure about the success Mullens will have about Smith. Haywood might be a better bet to start off on him to get more physical.
This will definitely be one of the more interesting games going on Friday. Both teams have quietly had success to start this young season, and are young and athletic. The Bobcats match up a lot better with the Hawks sans-Joe Johnson, but they shouldn’t take them lightly because of it. We’ll see how things turn out tonight, and in the game recap.