The Atlanta Hawks will try to end a six-game homecourt losing streak against one of the hottest teams in the NBA on Sunday when they host the Cleveland Cavaliers, who have won six straight games.
The Hawks were hammered 133-115 by the Denver Nuggets on Friday. The Cavaliers, who whipped the Milwaukee Bucks 119-90 on Saturday, have won 10 of their last 12 games.
Atlanta reportedly will be without All-Star point guard Trae Young, who ranks second in the league in scoring (27.3) and third in assists (9.3). ESPN reported Sunday morning that Young had entered the NBA’s COVID-19 protocol.
This will be the second of four meetings between the Hawks and Cavaliers this season. Cleveland won the first game 101-95 in Cleveland on Oct. 23. Cleveland went on a 21-0 run in the third quarter of that game, the sort of defense that has been hampering Atlanta this season and boiled to the surface on Friday.
The Cavs won two of three against the Hawks last season.
Atlanta coach Nate McMillan chastised his team for their lack of defensive effort after Friday’s game, the second straight home game in which the Hawks have allowed 130-plus points. Denver shot 58.1 percent from the field and made 17 3-pointers, many of them uncontested.
“I haven’t questioned their effort, but (against Denver) there’s a concern. I didn’t like what I saw out there,” McMillan said. “I really didn’t feel like or felt that I’ve seen that from us this season. (Denver) they pretty much got whatever they wanted at will.”
Atlanta has been without top defender De’Andre Hunter (right wrist injury) for much of the season, but McMillan didn’t use that as an excuse. He said the team must embrace the idea of playing on both ends of the floor.
“That’s something we’ll have to continue to condition our guys to try to get them to commit to that,” McMillan said. “I think the guys we have out there now are more offensive minded. … Their focus has been on the opposite end of the floor. … There’s a commitment to play both sides of the floor, and we’re not doing that right now.”
Atlanta forward John Collins, asked whether the effort was good enough, said, “Usually I’d say yes, but tonight, hell no. We’ve got to do a better job.”
Cleveland has won by at least 10 points in 10 consecutive victories, the first time the Cavs have done that since Nov. 13-Dec. 9, 2008, when they had won 12 straight by that margin. Thirteen of their wins have come by 10-plus points this season.
“I’m having a lot of fun,” Cleveland’s Darius Garland said. “This is the first time we’ve gotten this many wins so early in my three years here. As long as we’re winning, I’m having fun with it.”
Kevin Love scored 15 points on Saturday and passed Campy Russell for 10th place on the team’s all-time scoring list. Love has 6,589 points with Cleveland. He is shooting 33-for-65 (51 percent) on 3-pointers in the last 11 games.
The Cavaliers may be without Evan Mobley and Isaac Okoro, who have entered the league’s health and safety protocols. The Hawks could get Bogdan Bogdanovic (right ankle sprain) back on Sunday.
–Field Level Media