2014 NBA schedule: Hawks battle Nets, T-Wolves visit hot 76ers

Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

The Atlanta Hawks face a Brooklyn Nets team with two wins in a row.

Monday night opens with the Minnesota Timberwolves visiting the Philadelphia 76ers in what could be a shootout, and it closes with the Orlando Magic facing the Los Angeles Clippers, who play their second game without point guard Chris Paul. Yet, it's the game sandwiched in between that might be the most intriguing.

The main course: Hawks vs. Nets

7:30 p.m. ET

This one could surprisingly be the best game of Monday night. The Atlanta Hawks are 6-11 on the road, while the disappointing Brooklyn Nets aren't so bad at Barclays Center having gone 7-9 at home. Atlanta has lost three of five while learning how to play without All-Star center Al Horford, and Brooklyn has won its last two games -- one of those wins came at Oklahoma City.

Throw their records out the window, and you can see it being a good game. Jason Kidd said he's not wearing a tie, and you know what that means.

When it comes down to it, the Nets have the closers in Joe Johnson, Paul Pierce and Deron Williamswho is a game-time decision with an ankle injury. They'll be happy to grind out this game, which isn't necessarily how the Hawks want to play. Mike Budenholzer's team is still the No. 1 assist team in the league and would rather be playing in an open style that allows the offense to find a rhythm. With Horford out, Atlanta is shooting just 40 percent and has struggled to score 100 points, so the odds are already leaning in Brooklyn's favor.

The appetizer: Timberwolves vs. 76ers

7 p.m. ET

The Timberwolves may be trying to find themselves from an existential standpoint — so much talent but so little to show for it — and on Monday physically find themselves in Philadelphia to face a young 76ers squad that has quietly won four straight. The Sixers are coming off a big win against a very good Portland Trail Blazers team.

Minnesota must be wary of Thaddeus Young, who has been torching the nets in the last five games by averaging 26 points, 3.6 steals and 8.4 rebounds during that span. The good news for Rick Adelman's team is that Kevin Love, Kevin Martin and Nikola Pekovic can easily keep up against the high-octane 76ers, who are the worst defensive team in the league. It's likely many points will be scored.

The dessert: Magic vs. Clippers

10:30 p.m. ET

Chris Paul is out for six weeks with a shoulder injury, and now the Los Angeles Clippers' season just got a lot more interesting. With the main ignition source for their offense gone, how with Doc Rivers' squad react? In their first game without Paul, the answer was "not well." The Clippers scored just 92 points in a rout by the San Antonio Spurs.

The Orlando Magic have lost three games in a row, and now could smell blood in the water. They may have to pull a road upset without center Nikola Vucevic, who remains day-to-day with an ankle injury. But if Orlando uses its athleticism to get in the passing lanes and disrupt a Clippers offense that might already be out of sorts, the Magic will have a decent enough shot.

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