- Tip Off: 7:30 p.m.
- Television: CSN-BA
- Points: Al Horford, 14.8 PPG
- Rebounds: Al Horford, 8.7 RPG
- Assists: Jeff Teague, 7.2 APG
- Steals: Jeff Teague, 1.8 SPG
- Blocks: Josh Smith, 1.8 BPG
- Field Goal Percentage: Ivan Johnson, 69.2% field goal shooting
- 3-Point Field Goal Percentage: Anthony Morrow, 80% 3-point field goal (3 games)
Scope out the Opposition: Soaring Down South.
Preview: After a road win in Portland on Monday night, the Atlanta Hawks will take on a Golden State Warriors team that’s trying to bounce back from back-to-back losses at the hands of the Los Angeles Lakers and Denver Nuggets. To preview the game, the Warriors World staff went 3-on-3.
1. Last season, the Warriors sported an offensive efficiency figure of 103.1 (12th in the league); but this season it’s looked at times anemic as evidenced by their offensive efficiency of 95.6 (25th in the NBA). What’s different from last season?
Jack Winter: I’ve mentioned this ad nauseam but it bears repeating again – five of this team’s top nine players are new to the Warriors this season, and a sixth (Richard Jefferson) was acquired at last year’s trade deadline. No roster in the NBA was overhauled in the offseason like Golden State’s, so some early season growing pains really shouldn’t surprise. It takes teams months or even seasons – not seven games – to mesh the way they ultimately will and build lasting continuity. And the season-ending injury to Brandon Rush and always-iffy status of Andrew Bogut has only made things harder for the Warriors, prolonging the process of building a consistent playing rotation. Then there’s the shooting woes of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. Golden State was counting on prolific and efficient scoring from their young backcourt stars, but both have really underwhelmed so far. It’s tough to score when an offense’s two top options struggle.
Jordan Ramirez: This can be attributed to the new pieces and simply bad shooting. Mark Jackson has so many new weapons at his disposal — including Curry in there as well — it’s going to take some time to learn his offensive sets and who works well together. Also, we heard all offseason about defense, it seemed like Jackson almost assumed the offense would find its way by itself. It doesn’t help that the two best shooters on the team — Curry and Thompson — are shooting a measly 38% so far this season. Shooters should shoot, and offenses look a lot better when they go in. The shots being taken haven’t been clean shots, plenty of hand-in-your-face-but-I’m-a-great-shooter-so-I’ll-shoot shots. The only way to cure this is, ironically, take more shots, which the Warriors we know will do.
J.M. Poulard: The lack of familiarity is certainly one of the issues hurting the team, but so is the starting backcourt’s inability to convert from the field so far this season. But all of these small issues pale in comparison to Stephen Curry’s performance overall as the team’s floor leader. Believe it or not, Monta Ellis performed admirably last season not only as a scorer but also as a floor general for the team during Curry’s absence from the lineup and his departure has placed more responsibility on Steph’s shoulders; a task we all assumed he could carry, but he has failed to do so at present time. Perhaps it’s just an adjustment period for him and he’ll soon figure things out, which will also benefit David Lee.
2. An argument could easily be made that the Hawks frontline of Al Horford and Josh Smith has underachieved so far this season. Will that trend continue tonight against the Warriors?
Jack Winter: There’s a common belief in league circles that for Horford to reach his potential as a player Atlanta needs to play him at power forward alongside a real center. I’ve never been a big believer that was in the best interest of the Hawks, partly because Horford is plenty big for a modern day 5 and doing so would mean playing Smith on the perimeter. Larry Drew disagrees, though, and recently made Zaza Pachulia a starter and pushed Smith and Horford up a spot. And that’s good news for Golden State, because the thought of David Lee containing Smith off the dribble or Festus Ezeli closing out on Horford in a pick-and-pop is a sobering one. Of course, the success of both teams and these two individually hinges a lot on which frontcourt tandem Drew goes with for the game’s majority. Smith and Horford? Easy advantage Atlanta. Horford and Pachulia with Smith at small forward? I’m not so sure.
Jordan Ramirez: The Hawks frontline hasn’t “underachieved” in any way, it’s just them being the Atlanta Hawks. Horford and Smith have both been quality players in their time in the league, but the dark cloud of being in Atlanta has rescinded some much deserved praise. With that said, the cure for any “underachieving” frontcourt is always a matchup against the Golden State Warriors. Without Bogut, expect Horford to show the rookie Ezeli what it takes to be an All-Star center. Josh Smith also presents a unique challenge as his athleticism just obliterates any other PF’s in the league. The key is forcing Smith to take jumpers and even threes. David Lee has been, well, David Lee this season on defense, we’ll see if he can assemble some kind of resistance against Smith tonight. If he can, the Warriors have a great chance at the win.
J.M. Poulard: Al Horford has been a stud ever since his days at Florida and there is no reason to expect him not perform as such against the Dubs, especially when matched up against a player in Festus Ezeli that’s just starting to get his feet wet in the NBA.
As it pertains to Josh Smith, conventional wisdom would have you think he would have a field day against David Lee, but he’s been subpar so far this season. One would assume that him being in a contract year would mean that he’d be tearing it up right now but such isn’t the case, as J-Smoove is still a big believer in his own jumper. Thus, I’m forced to think that Smith will be somewhere between decent and good, but not great tonight.
3. Who wins tonight’s game and why?
Jack Winter: There’s an indicator of potential success for the Warriors here. Only seven teams rely more on the three-pointer than Atlanta, and opponents are shooting just 30.4% against Golden State so far this season, fourth-best in the league. While the latter mark should be taken with a grain of salt (it’s a cyclical stat sometimes), it’s still comforting given the pluses on both ends presented by Smith and Horford. Curry and Thompson are bound to start shooting better sometime, too, and this game looms especially large after two straight losses put GS below .500 for the first time this season. With a big effort from Curry, Thompson, or both, the Warriors win a close one at home.
Jordan Ramirez: The Hawks actually have an admirable squad. They won’t be winning titles or many playoff series, but they’re a respectable, mid-range playoff team in the East. The Warriors — shocking — are in disarray. Without Bogut and the solid frontline of Smith-Horford staring them in the eye, it will take a quality defensive effort from Lee, Landry and Ezeli to keep the Warriors in this game. Jeff Teague and Lou Williams also present a quick, feisty challenge for the backcourt, both of whom have played well this season. But on Hall of Fame night, with Don Nelson in the building, I expect a very Nellie-ish victory: plenty of threes, plenty of shots given up, a high scoring nail-biter. The Warriors somehow pull this one out in the end.
J.M. Poulard: At some point the Warriors’ backcourt has to break out and have a good shooting game and tonight seems like the perfect opportunity for them to do so against a Hawks team with suspect defenders on the wings. Also, I expect the Warriors to play smart tonight and take advantage of Hawks defenders trying to close out hard on long-range shots by going right by them to set up mid-range jumpers, which ATL has struggled to defend this season.