The Atlanta Hawks badly need a win as they head to Charlotte to take on the Hornets. Which matchup could decide the game?
The Hawks are mired in a slump after losing three consecutive games. Now it has been announced that Paul Millsap will miss the next two games with left knee tightness.
Millsap is the team’s leading scorer and would have a great chance to have a big game against the Charlotte Hornets on Monday night, due to the Hornets’ thin frontcourt.
But now, someone else will be forced to step up.
This may have been the most important matchup in this game anyways but wth Millsap out, it is even more crucial.
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The war between the Southeast Division rivals will be settled with the point guard battle between Dennis Schroder and Kemba Walker.
Schroder is Atlanta’s second-leading scorer (17.6 points per game) and will need to pick up some of the scoring load in the absence of Millsap. He will also need to take more responsibility for setting up his teammates since they will no longer have their anchor on offense.
The German’s playmaking will need to be as sharp as ever if he is going to effectively lead the offense in Millsap’s absence.
But his contributions on defense will be just as important.
The Hornets are a team that has tumbled down the Eastern Conference standings in recent months and are now almost completely carried by Walker.
One of the most dynamic scorers at his position, Walker (22.8 points per game) can shoot with great range and score in the lane as well. The former UCONN star is also very quick, using a very good first step to beat defenders off of the bounce.
Schroder will need to use his length to keep Walker in front of him. If he can force Walker to settle for contested jumpers, then that will force other pieces to pick up some slack. That scenario greatly favors the Hawks because the Hornets lack a great secondary scoring option.
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Walker is also the smaller man and is not a great defender. That should allow Schroder to attack the rim and create for others in that way, playing to his strengths as an aggressive scoring guard.
But Walker is a guy that can drop 30-plus points on any given night, thus giving his team a chance to win.
Schroder’s job in this game is relatively standard. He can’t let Walker explode offensively and he needs to find his rhythm in his own offensive game. If he does those things, the Hawks have a great chance to win.
If not, then they could be on their way to a fourth consecutive loss.