The Atlanta Hawks have impressed this season; they are fourth in the Eastern Conference with a 22-20 record and are on an eight-game winning streak. In their last outing, they floored the defending champions LA Lakers, thanks to a fabulous outing by John Collins (27 points and 16 rebounds).
Meanwhile, the LA Clippers have struggled for consistency, especially in recent games. They are entering this matchup with five losses in their last eight games. With Serge Ibaka and Patrick Beverly ruled out of this game, their chances of beating the surging Atlanta Hawks don't look too bright.
Nevertheless, there will be a few key player matchups that could decide the outcome of this game. So without further ado, let's have a look at three such player duels to watch out for.
#1 Clint Capela (Atlanta Hawks) vs Ivica Zubac (LA Clippers)
The battle between the two big men, Ivica Zubac of the LA Clippers and Clint Capela of the Atlanta Hawks, could be an enticing one.
Although the LA Clippers have six players who are averaging at least six rebounds per game this season, they have been quite mediocre in grabbing the boards. They are ranked 12th in the league in total rebounds and only 19th in offensive boards. The Clippers' starting center Serge Ibaka is out of this game due to a back injury, so Ivica Zubac will take his place.
Both Zubac and Capela are leading their respective teams in rebounding this season.
The Atlanta Hawks are seventh in total rebounds and second in offensive boards this campaign. Their center, Clint Capela, is leading the league in rebounds, doing so with 14.2 per game.
Cleaning the glass against a rather mediocre rebounding team like the LA Clippers could be a comfortable proposition for Capela. But Zubac might have other ideas.
#2 Kevin Huerter (Atlanta Hawks) vs Paul George (LA Clippers)
Kevin Huerter is leading the Atlanta Hawks in steals this season, so putting him on a defensive assignment of Paul George might be a great tactic.
He isn't an on-ball clamper but could certainly bother George enough by crowding him during shot attempts.
Huerter is regarded as an off-the-ball shooting and cutting threat who also possesses the playmaking IQ necessary to make right decisions. So when George goes out on one of his offensive forays, he will have to be aware of Huerter's movement at the defensive end.
#3 John Collins (Atlanta Hawks) vs Kawhi Leonard (LA Clippers)
In Trae Young's absence, John Collins is the second-best scoring option for the Atlanta Hawks.
He is averaging 18.2 points per game while grabbing the second-highest rebounds and blocking the second-most shots for the team this season.
Kawhi Leonard is the LA Clippers' best defender, and he could be guarding Collins for most of the night. Leonard is also the team's highest scorer, so Collins could have a busy outing at the defensive end.