By Bradley Sturgeon @BradSturgeon1 on August 14, 2014
The Atlanta Hawks are looking to make a bigger impact on the Eastern Conference this coming season. Al Horford is back and new assets have been added. The Mike Budenholzer era continues and is more solidly set. Here are the most important games to look forward to at the start of the season.
The Atlanta Hawks will open their season against a great team in Toronto. The Raptors finished third in the Eastern Conference last season, and the Hawks will be battling with the Raptors to gain a high playoff seed. Hawks fans will be very excited to see Al Horford in his first game since his season-ending injury, and they'll be anxious to cheer on their beloved Hawks once again.
The Atlanta Hawks' rivalry with the Indiana Pacers has only grown deeper over the past few seasons. Indiana has knocked Atlanta out of the playoffs in two consecutive years. In 2013 the series went to six games, and in 2014 it ended with a Game 7 victory by the Pacers. Tensions even escalated to physical confrontation in Game 6 of their most recent playoff encounter. Obviously the Hawks have plenty of spite when they see gold and blue.
On Dec. 15, the Chicago Bulls will charge into Phillips Arena to face the Atlanta Hawks. This will be Derrick Rose's first game back in Atlanta. This game holds much importance in the scheme of the playoff race, for the Bulls are looked at by most analysts as the front-runners of the Eastern Conference. The Hawks' performance against the Bulls will tell if this team is legit or not.
Similarly to the Bulls, the Cleveland Cavaliers look to be one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference. LeBron James will make his return to Atlanta as a Cavalier once again on Dec. 30. The Hawks will need every game this coming season to propel themselves up the standings, and a victory over the revamped Cavaliers would prove to the doubters that Atlanta is a true contender.
The final game of the 2014-15 season for the Atlanta Hawks will be played in Chicago. This game will easily be the most important game of the year, with Atlanta likely vying for a higher playoff seed. This coming season will be very tight as the competition in the Eastern Conference is not as top-heavy, so two games could be the difference between a No. 4 seed and a No. 7 seed. The last game of the year will be intense.
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