UPDATE: The Hawks will start Pero Antic at center for tonight’s game, according to the AJC.
Date: January 3, 2014
Tip-Off Time: 7:30 PM ET
TV Channel: SportSouth (Local in Atlanta), NBA League Pass
Radio: 92.9 FM (Atlanta Flagship), Atlanta Hawks Radio Network Affiliates
Live Stream: League Pass Broadband
The first game of 2014 for the Atlanta Hawks is a big-time challenge, as they host Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors on Friday night at Philips Arena. Fortunately for Atlanta, the Warriors are coming off of a taxing victory in Miami on Thursday night, and for once, the Hawks should be rested here after two days off since Boston Celtics” href=”http://atlallday.com/2013/12/31/atlanta-hawks-battle-back-92-91-win-boston-celtics/”>their squeak-out victory against the Celtics.
As mentioned above, Stephen Curry leads the way for the Dubs, and he leads an offense that is incredibly fun to watch. Golden State is in the top-10 in net rating, outscoring opponents by 5.1 points per 100 possessions, but despite the aesthetically pleasing nature of their scoring attack (3rd in the NBA in 3-point percentage at nearly 40% on 24.1 attempts per game), it’s their defense that has led the way, especially during their current winning streak.
It may be surprising to find out that the Warriors are currently 4th in the NBA in defensive efficiency, allowing only 98.5 points per 100, but they’ve revamped their roster from the “shoot-first, think-second” mindset of a few years ago. They have elite defensive players in on the wing (Andre Iguodala) and at center (Andrew Bogut), and despite having two “negative” guys (David Lee and Steph Curry), they make it work with quality defensive players off the bench and some sound positioning.
Mike Budenholzer has a unique challenge here with lineup construction, especially without Al Horford in the lineup. Fortunately, DeMarre Carroll is expected to return to the court tonight, giving Coach Bud his #1 defensive stopper, but he can only guard one of the Klay Thompson/Andre Iguodala combo, putting significant pressure on Kyle Korver or whoever else is playing on the wing (Cartier Martin alert!). Up front, Elton Brand has been starting at center, but we could see a considerable amount of the more athletic Gustavo Ayon here.
As far as match-ups to watch, it’s the usual suspects for Atlanta. Paul Millsap squares off with David Lee, who is a very good offensive player who “struggles” on defense, and Paul will once again be counted on to put up big numbers. He’s been absolutely outstanding since Al’s exit, and we’ll see if he can keep it up. At the point, Jeff Teague gets the Steph Curry assignment, and with that, it’s a bigger defensive challenge than most nights for Teague (he struggles on defensive at times), and he’ll be pressing to be able to generate offensive energy (copyright, Larry Drew).
Breaking News: Kyle Korver is good at 3-point shooting. The sharpshooting swingman saw his 3-point streak reach an incredible 101 consecutive games against the Celtics (despite some challenges), and he’ll be looking to push himself further into history tonight. It isn’t the easiest match-up for Korver, though, as the Warriors sit in the top-10 of the league in opponent’s 3-point percentage, and they have multiple options (including an elite defender in Iguodala) to throw at Kyle.
The experts in Las Vegas have made the Warriors a 3-point favorite in Atlanta despite the back-to-back scenario for Golden State, but honestly, it’s tough to disagree. The Hawks have a significant talent disadvantage here, but the solution (as always against GSW) is to clamp down on 3-point shooting and give a big-time effort in transition on both ends.
Stay tuned for updates throughout the night, and a full recap to follow.