Since losing Al Horford to another torn pectoral muscle, the Hawks have managed to hold their head above water going 9-9. Their makeshift center mash unit of Pero Antic, Gustavo Ayon, Elton Brand, and at times, Mike Scott, have produced better than our bunch of Ajinca-Stiemsma-Withey.
Their unspectacular, but quite efficient, perimeter attack of Jeff Teague, Kyle Korver and DeMarre Carroll have been very useful. Yep, just being solid in the East is often good enough nowadays.
The real gem of their lineup though (and a guy I desperately wanted the Pelicans to chase during the last off season) is Paul Millsap. Since Horford's injury, he is averaging 18.5 PPG, 8.3 REB, 3.2 AST, 2.3 STL, 1.4 BLK and 2.7 TOV. Deservingly, he was announced as an All-Star reserve less than a week ago.
Three keys to victory:
- Minimize Millsap's Impact. Even Monty shouldn't be able to screw this up. By having Anthony Davis at his natural position of PF, Millsap should find it tougher against a taller more athletic defender. AD just needs to watch the foul trouble as Millsap has been getting to the line 6.5 times in the last 18 games.
- Avoid Giving Korver Open Looks. He's going to get his shots from the perimeter (averages close to 6 a game) but let's at least make them all contested. Eric Gordon has really got to focus tonight as coming into the game he gives up 1.15 points per possession (rank of 272) to opposing spot-up shooters.
- Slow Atlanta Down. Can't believe I'm asking for a slower paced game, but well, it will likely be to our advantage. The Hawks are in the top tier in both fast-break points and opponent turnovers. Factor in their league-leading 25.7 assists a game, it'll be absolutely crucial to reduce the defensive breakdowns.