Warriors-Hawks Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated December 15, 2012
It's been a much different story for the Atlanta Hawks and Golden State Warriors since they met a month ago. Both these teams are among the NBA's biggest surprises, and the Hawks will try to earn a split of the season series with a Warriors team that's wrapping up a seven-game road trip Saturday night. Not much was expected from either team in 2012-13, with Atlanta (14-6) losing six-time All-Star Joe Johnson to Brooklyn and Golden State (15-8) entering off four straight losing seasons. The Hawks, however, are tied with Miami for the Southeast Division lead. "Wins and losses, I'm very happy with where we are,'' coach Larry Drew said. "I thought this first quarter of the season we came together pretty well.'' The Warriors are off to their best start since 1991-92 and sit 1 1/2 games behind the first-place Clippers in the Pacific. Atlanta was 3-3 and Golden State 3-4 when these teams met Nov. 14 in Oakland, where the Warriors won 92-88 behind rookie Harrison Barnes' 19 points and 13 boards. This rematch figures to be different since the Hawks' Al Horford and Devin Harris were sidelined by stomach illnesses. That's the only contest missed by Horford, who is averaging 18.9 points in seven games against the Warriors, his highest against any opponent and 5.9 better than his career mark. Atlanta can also expect a more potent effort from the Golden State backcourt of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, who combined for 19 points on 6-of-23 shooting the last time. Curry is averaging 21.8 points during an 8-2 run by the Warriors while Thompson averaged 20.0 on the first five games of this road trip before he was held to nine in Friday's 99-85 loss to Orlando. That defeat ended a five-game win streak to begin this trip for the Warriors, whose only two losses in their last 10 have been to the Magic. Curry scored a game-high 25 points. "I don't know exactly how to stop them," Curry said. "Thankfully, we don't have to play them again.'' Golden State never led after the first quarter and trailed by 16 at the half. "It was one of those nights where we were expecting a run," coach Mark Jackson said. "A run of stops, a run of scores and it never happened. ... We never got into a danger zone where we felt like the game was ours.'' David Lee finished with 24 points and 15 boards, marking the career-best sixth straight game he has had at least 20 points and 10 rebounds. The Hawks have won 11 of 13 since losing to the Warriors. They cruised past Charlotte 113-90 on Thursday. Josh Smith is leading Atlanta with 17.3 points per game while Horford is second with a career-best 16.3. The chemistry between the two seems to be better this season. "I think we complement each other real well,'' Horford said. "I think Josh is an unselfish player. I'm an unselfish player as well. I think we just want to win. I really want to win in the worst way and we're making it work with the team." The Hawks are among the NBA's top defensive teams, allowing 93.1 points per game and limiting opponents to 43.7 percent shooting.
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