In the matchup of the two top teams in the NBA, the Hawks (now 42-9) outlasted the Warriors 124-116. Looking at the score, one would assume this was an offensive battle befitting of the best offensive teams in the NBA, and would be absolutely right.
Atlanta has been successful this season with their depth; as was noted in Arno's preview, no Hawk ranks in the top 30 points per game. Their entire starting five -- Jeff Teague, Kyle Korver, Demarre Carroll, Paul Millsap and Al Horford -- was named the Eastern Conference Player of the Month, and all played well tonight. The Hawks had seven players score in double figures tonight.
Jeff Teague, although he went 5-15 from the field, went 11-11 from the free throw line, ending up with 24 points. Korver, the league's best three-point shooter, went for five triples, as the Warriors were slow rotating over and did not find him in transition. Millsap repeatedly pump-faked Draymond Green off the ground and was able to get to the foul line 12 times, totalling 21 points.
Teague, Korver, and Millsap encapsulated the Hawks' dominance at the foul line and on three-pointers. And that is where the Warriors lost this game tonight.
Atlanta shot 33-37 from the foul line and a scorching 15-26 from distance. Golden State, on the other hand, shot only 12-30 from deep and 10-15 on free throws. An in-depth article this week by Tom Haberstroh discussing the decline of home-court advantage raised a reduction in ref bias toward home teams as a possible reason. That did not seem like the case tonight, as the Hawks shot 22 more free throws -- 37 to the Warriors' 15, and made 33 total. Golden State only made ten, but probably deserved more; Stephen Curry and Harrison Barnes were hammered multiple times on drives yet no fouls were called.
The benches also played a huge role tonight. For the Hawks, Kent Bazemore (the former Warrior), Mike Scott, and Dennis Schröder combined to shoot 7-7 from three point land, and Atlanta's bench shot 19-26 in all for 39 points. Scott, in particular, crushed the Warriors, scoring 17 points and hitting back-to-back threes to end the third quarter. In what had been a tie game at 83-all, Atlanta took a six-point advantage into the fourth quarter and would not lose the lead from that point on.
On the other end, the Warriors' bench could not pick up the slack when Curry and Thompson rested. Leandro Barbosa had more attempts than shots and often flung shots wildly off the backboard on drives. Aside from Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston, the bench played abysmal defensively, especially David Lee, who allowed the two Scott threes to end the third quarter and then Horford to cut backdoor to begin the fourth. That was a massive blow for the Warriors, who had to fight an uphill battle the entire fourth quarter and could not complete the comeback.
Warrior Wonder: Klay Thompson
Klay Thompson and Curry kept the Warriors in the game, combining for 55 points -- Klay 29, Steph 26. After Thompson scored 19 in the first half on 5-9 shooting, Curry took the torch in the second half with 15 in the third quarter. Neither, however, really caught fire in the fourth quarter. Thompson shot 11-20 from the floor, but Steph finished just 8-19 from the floor. He kept the Warriors afloat and alive until the end, but the outburst just wasn't enough for the Warriors to win.
Draymond Green had a monster night on the boards with a career-high 20 rebounds. He kept possessions alive offensively and ended them for the Hawks -- displaying his toughness down low, toughness that doesn't show up in the box score but is appreciated nonetheless. But unfortunately, he couldn't provide much of a spark in terms of shooting -- and neither could Harrison Barnes, each going for just 12 points. Golden State needs their non-offensive-stars to shoot well to win games -- most especially against the top teams in the NBA. Tonight, that didn't happen. Tonight, shots wouldn't fall, and that cost the Dubs.
Atlanta capitalized on the game turning into a track meet in the second half, notably in the fourth quarter. After scoring 52 points in the first half, they exploded for 72 points in the second half. With no Andrew Bogut on the floor in the fourth quarter, Atlanta attacked the rim over and over again. They were able to spread the floor with Millsap, Horford, Scott and Antic all capable shooting big men. Golden State was often a second or two late closing out, and if they were on time to contest the shot, it often resulted in a foul and Atlanta free throws.
Overall, the Warriors played well enough to beat most teams, even on the road, but Atlanta is not "most teams." No, the Hawks are the best team in the NBA for good reason. The Warriors lost to a better team tonight. Now let's see what happens March 18 at Oracle Arena when these teams match up again.
Up Next: At New York Knicks, Saturday
This game should be a relatively easy win; Golden State might (probably will) rest Bogut and perhaps Iguodala and even Curry as they will be on the second night of a back-to-back and finishing up a stretch of four games in five nights. The Knicks absolutely suck, and the Warriors are the best team in the Western Conference. This should be an easy blowout for Golden State, even though the Warriors are on the second game of a back-to-back and might not play Bogut.