02 ARENA MAP 568London awaits. Another regular season game and no surprise, a capacity crowd expected at the o2 Arena. After the disappointment of empty seats at the pre-season game in Manchester, the desire from NBA fans in this corner of the United Kingdom to see their heroes shows no sign of abating.

They’ve been flocking en-masse to the o2 since it opened in 2007 and they will no doubt continue to do so for a long time to come.

While the Brooklyn Nets have not enjoyed the best of starts to a season, they are finally a team now on the rise and after sitting near the bottom of the Eastern Conference, have climbed into the play-off spots.

Who would have thought that when this game was announced, it would be Atlanta with the winning record and the Nets seven games below .500 in the standings.

Injuries have been a major issue for all NBA teams this season and there’s so many players missing you almost wonder if this year’s All-Star game should even take place!

On a serious note, it means the London crowd will miss out on three players who would have been worth watching. Atlanta’s Al Horford is out for the season with a torn right pectoral muscle, and if that injury sounds familiar then it’s because he tore the left pectoral muscle a year previous.

As for the Nets, who have been beset by injuries all season, they will be without centre Brook Lopez, who required season-ending surgery after breaking his foot, while guard Deron Williams won’t be travelling as he battles ankle injuries that have plagued him all season.

But don’t worry, there’s still plenty of talent on show for the fans to enjoy on Thursday evening.

Let’s start with the Nets, and while Celtics fans in attendance may be wanting to see veterans Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett one final time on British soil, they may not like what they see.

Pierce and Garnett weren’t brought in to lead the Nets; their role is a reduced one and it’s more of a supporting role to give the Nets the depth they crave. Both players are averaging career lows in scoring, but you know that every so often one of them will break out and have a big game.

With Williams and Lopez sidelined, the focus of the scoring load now falls on Joe Johnson’s shoulders and he will no doubt relish any game against the team he spent many years with.

In recent games he’s put up big numbers, including a 32-point haul that helped beat Miami last week. He needs to keep putting them up as the Nets look to climb the standings.

Like Pierce and Garnett, Jason Terry is also trying to hold back father time and he’s joined on the bench by the Nets’ Eastern European trio of Andrei Kirilenko, Mirza Teletovic and Tornike Shengelia. Of the this lot, Bosnian forward Teletovic is probably the most likely to influence the game, especially with Kirilenko struggling this season both with injury and a loss of form.

As for the Hawks, Horford’s injury was a major blow and it’s good to see that they didn’t implode after their leading scorer and rebounder was lost for the year.

Ex-Utah power forward Paull Millsap has picked up the mantle in Horford’s absence, and in a league full of star point guards, Jeff Teague doesn’t seem to get the credit he sometimes deserves.

Teague put up a career-high 34 points on Boxing Day as his Hawks edged the Cleveland Cavaliers in a double-overtime classic and fittingly, Teague scored the winning basket.

If it’s not the dunks or blocked shots that get fans on their feet, everyone loves a player who can sink shots from outside the arc and the Hawks have just that in Kyle Korver.

He will come to London looking to extend his NBA record streak of consecutive games with a three-pointer made, which now stands at 107.

If the Hawks want to win this game, Korver will need to make it 108 as although both teams have been hampered by injuries, the Nets have that depth that the Hawks lack.

The game last year between the Detroit Pistons and New York Knicks turned out to be a comfortable win for the Knicks in front of a largely partisan crowd.

Although it will be a Hawks home game on Thursday, expect to see a lot of Nets fans in the building. But will it be another New York team celebrating in London?

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