This also counts as an open thread, so feel free to post your thoughts during the game here.
Records: The Oklahoma City Thunder (37-22) vs. The Atlanta Hawks (37-24)
Time: 6:30 PM Central Standard Time
Place: Philips Arena, Atlanta, Georgia
TV: Fox Sports Bet Oklahoma, Fox Sports Net South
Radio: WWLS The Sports Animal (98.1), 99X 97.9 FM
Enemy Blog(s): Peachtree Hoops, Hoopinion
Previous Meeting(s): None.
After trading Mike Bibby for the younger Kirk Hinrich, the Hawks have won all three games that Hinrich has played in. His statlines alone aren't very impressive, but the way in which he shuts down the opposing team's point guard offensively has proved invaluable to the Hawks. They're on their way to establishing an identity, and possibly competing for the Eastern conference title.
Unfortunately for them, the roster might be a little short tonight. Josh Smith tweaked his knee earlier this week, and had to sit out Wednesday's game against the Bulls, which Atlanta won. Should Smith sit, it will even out the game (since Durant is likely also out) and force both teams to go to secondary scoring options. The Hawks will rely mostly on Al Horford and Jamal Crawford, while the Thunder will rely on Russell Westbrook and James Harden.
The main problem from the Thunder perspective will be the way the Hawks have shut down opposing PGs defensively. On Wednesday, Derrick Rose went 5-21 and scored only 12, while last Friday saw the Hawks limit Monta Ellis to 7-21 shooting and force 6 turnovers. If similar limitations are put on Russell Westbrook, and the Ibaka/Mohammed combo is effective at limiting Al Horford, this game basically becomes a shooting contest with Atlanta, and I'm pretty sure they have better shooters.
Overall, my gut feeling goes with Atlanta on this one. We are teams with similar styles and predicaments, but the Hawks are more effective scorers, and that is what will win this game for them in the end.
Prediction: Atlanta 97, Oklahoma City 95