Of all the teams above .500 in the league right now, the Hawks easily have the worst record on the road going, 6-12 in games away from Philips Arena. The crazy part about Atlanta’s record on the road is that to start the season, the Hawks actually did pretty well, going 4-4 in their first eight games. However, they have only won two out of their last 10.
On Sunday, the Hawks will face the Memphis Grizzlies on the road at the FedEx Forum in what should be tight battle between two physical teams.
If Atlanta wants to win the game on the road against the Grizzlies, then the defense has to bring their A-game to the court like they have recently in their big wins over the Indiana Pacers and the Houston Rockets. In those games, Atlanta managed to hold both teams under 90 points, and they will need to more of the same vs. the Grizzlies.
Over the last four games, the Grizzlies are averaging an impressive 108 points per game in a 2-2 stretch, with a tough two-point loss to the San Antonio Spurs in overtime last week and a three-point loss on the road to the Denver Nuggets. Even though Memphis did not pull out those wins, this tells me that their team has been competing at the highest level and that their offense is on a bit of a hot streak of late.
One player who has been a big reason for the Grizzlies’ offensive success lately has been Mike Conley. In their recent win over the Phoenix Suns, Conley tied a career-high in points with 31 and also dished out seven assists to carry the team to victory. On Sunday, the matchup between him and Jeff Teague should be a good one.
Teague is one of the better defensive point guards in the league, having limited big-time players such as Kyrie Irving to zero points earlier in the season and frustrating John Wall on numerous occasions. If Teague can win the battle against Conley, then the Hawks should come out of the FedEx Forum with a much-needed road win.
Another crucial matchup in the game will be the contest between two physical big men, Paul Millsap and Zach Randolph. Randolph is a beast down low on both ends of the floor, and Millsap will not have any easy task containing the physical power forward in the paint. Just look at his most recent performance where he put up 20 points and grabbed 13 rebounds in a dominating performance down low against the Suns. Any time he gets those kind of numbers, the Grizzlies usually win their games.
However, If Millsap can just limit Randolph to not allow him to become a force down low, then the Hawks should reign victorious. I believe Millsap can definitely do this, but I also believe it will take a total team effort to limit one of the better power forwards in the league.