I'm extremely interested in the game tonight because the Nuggets, in addition to providing the sternest test Atlanta's faced since their trip to Dallas back in 2007, might force the Hawks to play to their strengths.
The Hawks have two modes of offense which work fairly well: 1) intermittent stretches of transition buckets earned off of forced turnovers and defensive rebounds and 2) intermittent stretches when Joe Johnson cannot miss no matter the difficulty of the shot or the number of defenders guarding him.
It's obvious that the Hawks are incapable (or unwilling to make a priority) of pushing the ball up the court after every forced turnover or defensive rebound. That's where Denver provides me with hope. The Nuggets average 98.4 possessions per game. They play at a pace a full 10% faster than do the Hawks.
Even if the Hawks drag the pace half-way down to their usual 89 possession pace they will have several more opportunities to play to their offensive strengths: scoring before the defense gets set, offensive rebounding, and getting to the foul line.
It's not a new request of mine that Mike Woodson take advantage of every opportunity he has to play Josh Childress (in lieu of one of the point guards) alongside Joe Johnson, Josh Smith, Marvin Williams, and Al Horford. I think tonight is an opportunity to lean heavily on that lineup. No one on Atlanta's roster is capable of staying in front of Allen Iverson. The one thing Denver does not do well defensively is rebound. That lone weakness should be magnified in Nene's absence. In a game that should feature a lot of Alanta Hawks shot attempts, it's imperative they use their best percentage shooter and second-best offensive rebounder as much as possible. It would also be a fortuitous night to act as if Al Horford has a six rather than five foul limit.