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Warriors vs. Hawks preview: Can the Dubs win out the final 20 games of the season?

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Tonight’s game is the last of a three-game Eastern road trip is against the softest of Hawks teams.

Golden State Warriors v Washington Wizards Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

After the latest Golden State Warriors victory, shooting guard Klay Thompson stated that his goal was to not lose for the rest of the season.

It’s an achievable target — after all this is pretty much the same team that has shattered a ton of records over the past few years, but it’s going to be a test for an inconsistent Warriors team.

Up next: the Atlanta Hawks.

WHAT: Warriors at Hawks

WHEN: Friday, March 2nd 4:30 p.m.

WHERE: Philips Arena; Atlanta, GA.

WATCH: NBCSBA

RADIO: 95.7 The Game

Blog Buddy: Peach Tree Hoops

“We’re really trying to win every game going into the playoffs. Might be unrealistic, but it’d be nice to do that.”

- Klay Thompson

When Thompson uttered those words, I was immediately struck but how perfectly “Warriors” that sound clip was.

Cocky? Yup. Wrong? Nope.

Yet it is going to require them to deliver on that long-promised focus that was supposed to emerge for the team post-All-Star break.

The Warriors have one of the softest remaining schedules in the NBA: the Phoenix Suns three times, the Atlanta Hawks twice and the Sacramento Kings twice. Seven of the remaining 20 games are essentially “gimmies”, including this one.

The Hawks teams have dropped two straight to the Warriors, and 10 of the last 11, but tend to play us surprisingly tough. Regardless, the talent discrepancy is vast, so Golden State really has no excuse for losing this game.

The center shuffle is here, and it’s mostly worked

With the Warriors starters getting killed in the first quarters, coach Steve Kerr wasn’t about to bench one of the big four so the decision was made to shuffle the starting lineup by replacing Zaza Pachulia with JaVale McGee. Early results have been favorable, as per Anthony Slater:

In the 12 games prior to the break, the Warriors were outscored by 67 combined points in the first quarter. In their first 58 games, they were a -24, 18th in the NBA. But in the four games since the break, after a starting lineup change at the center spot and improved energy from their four All-Stars, they are a +29, bumping them into the positive for the season in first quarters.

Last game, the Warriors moved Kevon Looney to the inactive list, using Zaza Pachulia and the freshly returned Jordan Bell to flesh out the rest of the rotation. It will be something interesting to keep an eye though, as the Warriors home in on their playoff rotations. With Pachulia coming off the bench, it may be increasingly hard for Kerr to find favorable matchups, so look for Kerr to continue dancing this dance as he slots in the starting center that makes the most sense for any given matchup.

The Hawks have not been great this season, but they’re still dangerous

Ok, straight up: this Hawks team is NOT good. In fact, they are one of the worst teams in the NBA. This may feel like a harsh turnaround for a team that has made the playoffs for each of the past 10 seasons, but a tank and rebuild makes a lot of sense when you consider that: a) they play in a relatively weak Eastern conference; and b) they’ve never been all that close to contending for a championship.

So what are we up against tonight?

Looking at the Four Factors, it’s easy to see why this team has struggled. Offensively, they don’t shoot the ball well (ranked 20th in the NBA), turn it over a ton (27th) and are decidedly average in rebounding and getting to the line. And on the other side of the court, it’s not much prettier: the team is nearly last in both opponent shooting percentage, and defensive rebounding.

Atlanta’s one hope — which may be especially effective against the Warriors — is that the Hawks are elite at forcing opponent turnovers. The backcourt of Kent Bazemore and Denis Schroder is grabbier than those little sticky hand toys you get out of those 25-cent vending machines at the pizza place.

Still, for a Warriors team that is focused on winning all the way through the end of the season up against a tanking Hawks team, it’s hard for me to see how this ends up lasting much beyond the third quarter.

Prediction:

Warriors 112, Hawks 93