Picking the top tilt for tonight was kind of a gimme, not only because the game between Atlanta and Golden State features the teams with the two best records in the league, but also because all the rest of the games on tonight’s slate aren’t exactly what you’d call “good.”
The Hawks will travel just a hundred or so miles west from Sacremento – where they beat the Kings on Monday, 110-103 – to square off against the infallible Warriors at ORACLE Arena, kicking off tonight at 10:30 ET on ESPN.
The Warriors are coming off a much-too-close-for-comfort 108-105 win over the misfit squad of fringe D-leaguers known as the Lakers, so they’ll likely be riled up to post a good showing in this one. Though Golden State escaped with the narrow victory against LA, it came at quite a hefty price, as starting shooting guard and resident splash-brother Klay Thompson suffered a sprained ankle in the game and is expected to miss 7-10 days. He won’t suit up for this mega-match against the Hawks tonight, leaving the Warriors short-handed without their best on-ball defender.
Meanwhile, The Hawks – who currently enjoy a comfortable 11 game lead on second-place Cleveland in the East – have been taking it easy of late, resting starters in less-important games in order to maintain health for the playoffs. On Monday against the Kings, the Hawks were voluntarily without 60% of their starting lineup, as they opted to give breathers to Jeff Teague, Demarre Carroll, and Al Horford.
Atlanta coach Mike Budenholzer has said his team plans to continue employing that strategy in certain games, but it doesn’t take a prophet to predict that they won’t be resting anyone for this one. Both clubs will be pulling out all the stops for a victory tonight in what could be a preview of the NBA championship series.
Golden State is a ridiculous 30-2 at home this season, while Atlanta sports the best road-record in the league at 23-10. Something’s got to give. Warriors MVP-candidate Steph Curry has averaged just 17.0 points per game against Atlanta over his career – his lowest average against any team.