Hawks vs. Warriors Game Preview

Thursday, January 2, 2014
By Robby Kalland

Golden State Warriors v Atlanta Hawks

The Hawks (18-14), coming off of another nail-biter win in Boston on Tuesday, will host the Warriors Friday night at Philips Arena. Atlanta had two much-needed days off after a grueling last week and a half that featured four overtime periods in three games (2-1), a loss on the second night of a back-to-back in Orlando after that stretch of overtime games, and, the most impactful event, the loss of Al Horford for the year with a torn right pectoral. Since the Horford injury, the Hawks have managed to go 2-1 with wins over the Celtics and the Bobcats and the loss to the Magic.

The Warriors (20-13) are on a six-game winning streak but will be on the second game of a back-to-back against the Hawks as they will take on the Heat in Miami on Thursday night. Golden State has benefited greatly from the return of Andre Iguodala to the lineup after he missed nearly a month with a hamstring injury. Since he returned to the lineup, the Warriors have gone 7-1 and have returned to form.

Iguodala is a huge key to the Warriors’ defensive success as one of the premier wing defenders in the NBA, and his ball-handling skills allow the Warriors to play sharp-shooters Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry off the ball more. Iguodala has scored in double-digits just twice since his return, but his presence on the defensive end and handling the ball have been very important, and his return allows coach Mark Jackson to adjust his lineup rotations to put better second units on the court. The Hawks will hope that DeMarre Carroll can return from the thumb sprain that has held him out of the past two games, because he would be tasked with pressuring and defending Iguodala.

The Warriors are a high-scoring, prolific offense led by Curry and Thompson shooting from the perimeter. Golden State moves the ball well (averaging 27.7 assists in their past three games) and run a lot of sets that have multiple off ball screens for Curry and Thompson to set them up with open spot-up attempts. In the frontcourt, the Warriors have size on the boards and the defensive end in Andrew Bogut and an elite scoring power forward in David Lee.

The matchups to watch for in this game will be Curry and Jeff Teague at the point, as Teague will have to chase Curry around the perimeter on defense both on and off the ball, and Lee against Paul Millsap. Millsap has been dominant in the past three games for the Hawks, highlighted by a 35 point-15 rebound performance in the win in Boston on Tuesday. Millsap has assumed a much larger offensive role with Horford out, and with Lee being a poor defender, Millsap could have another big offensive night against the Warriors. On the defensive end, Millsap has been strong, but will be tested against Lee, who is a versatile scorer with the ability to stretch the floor from the mid-range and has a bevy of post-moves.

The Hawks have been able to weather the storm in the first week without Horford, but will get their biggest test yet with the Warriors coming to town and in their best form of the season. A big thing to watch will be how much the Hawks were able to do in the two days between games to both rest and recover, and also improve in practice. Atlanta’s defensive continuity will be under pressure all night, especially with the Hawks still learning how to play with the new lineup rotations that have been forced by the Horford and Carroll injuries.

Photo by Kevin C. Cox/NBAE/Getty Images

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