Kyle Terada-US PRESSWIRE
One month ago the Atlanta Hawks came into Roaracle with a 3-3 record. The .500 team was playing the 3-4 Warriors in a battle of teams that might possibly break even for the season. The Warriors won that game and haven't been below .500 since, going 11-4 after it. Atlanta's loss was the last time the Hawks have been .500 - like the Dubs, the Hawks have won 11 games since.
In other words, both teams have been hot, hot, hot since November 14th. Don't be fooled by the press the Warriors have been getting - the Hawks have been playing just as well, and maybe a little better.
You can't call tonight's contest a trap game - unlike last night, the Warriors are the underdogs in this match. Atlanta is currently tied with Miami for the lead in the Southeastern division, and second in the Eastern conference. While expectations were low for them coming into the season, the "must be rebuilding since Iso Joe is gone" storyline has gone the away, though not to Brooklyn.
Josh Smith (17/8/4) and Al Horford (16/10/3) are doing a fantastic job for the Hawks. Lou Williams is coming off the bench to add another 14 per game. Although the Hawks' offense has scored a bit more than the Warriors, it's their fourth-rated defense that should give us pause, forcing the second highest turnover percentage in the league.
After last night's letdown game in Orlando, Golden State has the opportunity to respond, but in what looks to be a more difficult game. The team still has an edge in rebounding against the Hawks, and surprisingly is also ahead of them in free throws per field goal attempt. The Four Factors ratings almost balance out, with each team leading in two offensive and two defensive categories. So although this is a difficult game, it's a winnable one, especially considering the Dubs have beaten Atlanta once already this year. Without Horford, but a win is a win.
Keys for the Warriors to win:
Put the ball in the basket. Seriously. As I noted previously, the rookies have been shooting abysmally for the entire road trip. Last night's combined 2-14 for Ezeli, Barnes, and Green was just a continuation of their woes, with Harrison Barnes' 2-8 the "high point". The Dubs can carry that on most nights, but if we rely on Stephen Curry and David Lee to be our only consistent shooters, we'll continue to see trouble instead of victory.
Rebound as normal. Nice to say "as normal", but the Warriors need to win the battle of the boards to win the game. Atlanta isn't a bad rebounding team by any means, and if the Dubs are going to pull this out they need to win that war solidly. Barnes, Draymond Green, and Festus Ezeli need to step again here as well as in shooting.
Stop our turnovers and make them turn it over. Of all the factors that affect wins, turnovers are Golden State's Achilles heel. We're in the bottom third of the league in both turnover percentage, and in causing turnovers. The Hawks are good at forcing them, ranking second in the league on opponent turnovers. The Warriors rank 25th in the same statistic, so if we can force them into more turnovers while taking care of the ball, we have a good chance of coming away with a win.