The Atlanta Hawks and Golden State Warriors are the two best three-point shooting teams in the entire world. They are ranked first and second in assists on made field goals. In terms of movie rights based on heart, teamwork, unselfishness, and corny rah-rah-ness, they combine for the type of budget that would shame Ridley Scott. They met Friday night in Phillips Arena and it did not disappoint. Unless you're a Warriors fan, which I'm assuming all of you are. Then you were treated to the exact time of surgery and explosive nuking that the Warriors themselves subject to their patients and victims.
You could argue that the 68% shooting in the second half was sustainable. Or the Kent Bazemore, Mike Scott, and Dennis Schröder laser show among the 15 made threes were insurmountable and unlikely to happen. These are correct things. But things like Marreese Speights dropping 20 in 20 minutes are also things that are as rare as a missed Stephen Curry three. So barring all excuses, the Hawks outplayed the Warriors playing the brand of basketball the Warriors are damn great at. Here's how.
Kyle Korver Has No Conscience
The Warriors bring out two of the greatest shooters to ever grace the hardwood. Other NBA teams are lucky to even toss one out. The Hawks have one and he might be a better stand-still shooter than the Splash Brothers. Like Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, Korver also does not care about how far he is, shot clock placement, and anything else. If he's open, he's going to shoot it. And, yeah, it's going to go in.
Al Horford is a mix between Draymond Green and Andrew Bogut
The help defense. The ability to dribble low as to not get the ball stolen from behind. The awareness to flip the ball backwards for an open three. If that isn't Peak Draymond Green, I don't know what is.
Al Horford is an underrated rim protector and I could also throw out some clips of his great screens to loosen up Jeff Teague. Those are things that Andrew Bogut excels at. But the flash? Horford and Bogut can give you some of that, too. It also doesn't help the Warriors that David Lee is playing defense here.
Mike Scott and the bench can play
The Warriors have one of, if not the best, bench in the league. On Friday night it betrayed them, especially against Revenge Game Kent Bazemore, German Rajon Rondo Dennis Schröder, and Mike Scott. They combined to sink all seven three-point attempts, play hounding help defense on Thompson and Curry, and do things that David Lee and Speights do for the Warriors. Which is, to hit shots that demoralize opponents.
Watch Klay Thompson. Those are expressions we are used to seeing from opposing players. Schröder, a notoriously below-average shooter, made another pull-up jumper in the ensuing possession. The Hawks cooked all night.
Smart execution of game plan
The Hawks did it all game, like many other great teams that have taken the Warriors to task; they doubled Stephen Curry on all PNRs and dared the rest of the team to beat them. With the game nearly in control, the Hawks sent an extra person, Al Horford, to dissuade Curry from shooting a three, no matter the distance. The Warriors got a layup, but it was too little too late. Three people at Curry? Ridiculous in a vacuum but excellent strategy at its peak when it needed to happen late in the game.
And then the Hawks have something the Warriors don't, and might be their weakness in the stacked Western Conference.
Paul Millsap is very good
Paul Millsap torched Draymond Green to no end. Green jumped and jumped on his plethora of wiggle moves. The step-back pump fake, swing-through drive, and step-through shot. It was all unstoppable. Perhaps the most impressive thing about the Hawks is that through all the ball movement, when they do need to go isolation mode, the Warriors (and Harrison Barnes here) were rather helpless.
All this to simply say that, if I had to choose between the Warriors and Hawks in a basketball series, I think the Warriors would win. The San Antonio Spurs and Memphis Grizzlies present more of a challenge in terms of the feeling of helplessness as Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard would envelop the Splash Brother; then Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph would bully the Warriors in the paint for putback after putback. But the Hawks went small tonight and outplayed the Warriors. That doesn't happen often. Perhaps, and probably, this was unsustainable. But the Atlanta Hawks were awesome in playing the type of basketball the Warriors have excelled in the past couple seasons.