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With only 37 games remaining in the regular season, it is officially crunch time. After a horrid first half of the season, the Hawks have now won three straight games and are resembling last year's squad. 

As of this morning, they are two games out of the 10th and final play-in spot. To squeak into the post-season, the Hawks must win the majority of their remaining games. A victory against the Charlotte Hornets (7th in the Eastern Conference) would help tremendously.

To do that, the Hawks must continue playing with a sense of urgency and avoid taking plays off on defense. Yes, the Hawks have the third-worst defensive rating in the NBA. However, it has marginally improved since their win streak began last Monday, as they are 24th in defensive rating during that time (still a far cry from what contender's defenses look like).

As has been the case for most of the season, the Hawks have the second-best offensive rating in the NBA. Opposing defenses have no answers for Trae Young. The All-Star point guard averages 27.9 points and 9.4 assists per game. No other player in the league is top-five in both statistical categories. His demoralizing play often leads to his opponents talking trash which only makes the situation worse.

Tonight, Young and the Hawks their hands full against a frenetic Hornets team led by LaMelo Ball. They are top-four in offensive rating, pace, points, assists, and steals. Due to the Hornets' unrelenting offensive attack, the Hawks cannot afford to play with anything less than 110% effort.

Also, can we please talk about Ball? Outside of 'Ice Trae,' no other player in the NBA is more fun to watch. The 2021 NBA Rookie of the Year averages 19 points, 7.7 assists, 1.6 steals, and countless highlights per game. Some good, some bad. Regardless of how you feel about his flashy style, his fearlessness and creativity are good for the game.

Injury Report

It's safe to say the Hornets are enjoying good health. Only Jalen McDaniels (left ankle sprain) is out for tonight's game.

Meanwhile, the Hawks injury report includes Danilo Gallinari (right Achilles soreness) and Kevin Huerter (right hip contusion) as questionable. Bogdan Bogdanovic (right knee soreness) is out for the fifth consecutive game.


SI Sportsbook lists the Hornets as 3.5-point favorites, and the over/under is set at 235.5. You know how tough I've been on the Hawks for their record against the spread (second-worst in the NBA). But they are playing much better basketball. Not to mention, they already defeated the Hornets in one of their two previous games this season. I'm riding with the Hawks.

As always, we will have you covered through the game and will be back with a post-game wrap-up tonight. Let's get this dub and keep the win streak alive. Thank you for your support of Sports Illustrated's

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