Cavs face tall task in Atlanta

Published Dec. 22, 2010 10:04 a.m. ET

By Zac Jackson
FOX Sports Ohio
December 22, 2010

Previewing tonight's Cavaliers-Hawks game...

THE SKINNY: Cavaliers (8-20) at Hawks (18-12), Phillips Arena, 7 p.m. Fred McLeod and Austin Carr have the call on FSOhio.

THE STARTERS: The Cavs will start Mo Williams and Daniel Gibson at guard, Anthony Parker and Antawn Jamison at forward and Anderson Varejao at center. Varejao is still battling sore ribs but is expected to play. The Hawks will go with Mike Bibby and Joe Johnson in the backcourt, Al Horford and Josh Smith at forward and Jason Collins at center. Sixth-man Jamal Crawford, who plays starters minutes and averages 15 points per game, is questionable with a back injury.

THE SCOOP: The Hawks beat the Cavs in Cleveland, 100-88, in the first week of the season as five Hawks scored in double figures and the Hawks guards dominated the game. Much is different for the Cavs now -- J.J. Hickson was their leading scorer that night with a career-best 31 -- but they're still struggling with top guards and Horford will also be a load inside.

The Cavs' struggling defense will be tested by the league's fourth-best shooting team, and the Cavaliers' small lineup will be tested by the size and athleticism of Smith and Johnson. The Cavs will need to shoot it well and be good on the glass to stay in. They made a season-best 12 3-pointers Monday night vs. Utah but shot 28 of them. Gibson had the hot hand, making 7 of his 8 3-pointers on his way to a career-best 29 points.

Mo Williams has been playing well and will need another strong performance. The first Hawks game was his first game of the season and he was less than 100 percent helthy. Jamison had a tough shooting night vs. the Jazz, but over the last six he's averaging 17 points and 6 rebounds per game.

THE SERIES: The Hawks are 1-0 this year, but the Cavs have won five of the last seven. The teams play again in Cleveland March 27.

WHAT'S AHEAD: The Cavs close the calendar year with two home games: Sunday vs. Minnesota and next Tuesday vs. new-look Orlando.