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2012-2013 Game 3 Preview: Hawks Visit the Thunder, But Without J-Smoove

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The Hawks, after so many years of fielding the same stars but not managing to get anywhere beyond the second round of the playoffs, finally managed to make a change. However, they're 0-1, and will roll into tonight without their main scorer, Josh Smith.

Hopefully, KD won't fall asleep during the game again....
Hopefully, KD won't fall asleep during the game again....

2012-2013 NBA Season
The Atlanta Hawks (0-1)
The Oklahoma City Thunder (1-1)
November 4th, 2012
Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma (Tickets)
6:00 PM CDT
Fox Sports Net Oklahoma, SportSouth, WWLS the Sports Animal (98.1)
Enemy Blogs: Peachtree Hoops, Soaring Down South
Previous Meetings: None
Probable Starters
Jeff Teague PG Russell Westbrook
Devin Harris SG Thabo Sefolosha
Kyle Korver SF Kevin Durant
Ivan Johnson, Pachulia, or Tolliver? PF Serge Ibaka
Al Horford C Kendrick Perkins

The Hawks, after so many years of fielding the same stars but not managing to get anywhere beyond the second round of the playoffs, finally managed to make a change. They dished expensive star Joe Johnson to the Brooklyn Nets for cap relief and a non-lotto pick. Meanwhile, they picked up Willie Green and Lou Williams through other means, and let a lot of roster guys go in free agency.

Did the trade leave them better in the immediate point of time? Well, in one sense, it did. They have a really solid roster from top to bottom, along with a plethora of scorers. Lou Williams, Devin Harris bring the post penetration that Joe Johnson did, while Kyle Korver and Anthony Morrow bring the outside shooting. The main difference is that what was once contained within one player is now spread throughout the roster, and you've got to rely on more guys to carry the load.

But, as we saw in their matchup with Houston on Friday, it's more than a distribution of scoring. The team has no good defenders at shooting guard or small forward, and they had trouble defending the paint. As a result, James Harden was able to drop a career high 45 points on them in a comfortable victory. However, the Hawks are good at forcing turnovers, and if they know what they're doing, they'll try to take advantage of the Thunder's high pick and roll game, just as San Antonio did on Thursday.

The Hawks are, as a team, very hot and cold offensively. Even though Williams and Harris are there to get to the line, pretty much every player that gets minutes on their roster can shoot. As a result, they can fall in love with outside jumpers and dig themselves a pretty mean hole. The team also loves to get out on the break, so when you slow the game down against them, they're more prone to show this flaw.

Pertinent to today's matchup is the fact that the Hawks' leading scorer, Josh Smith, will not travel to OKC due to a sprained ankle. This doesn't affect them as much offensively as it does in terms of rebounding. He was a shade away from averaging a double-double last year, and was the team's leading rebounder. Additionally, in their game against the Rockets, the Hawks gave up a lot of offensive boards, pretty much negating all of the good their forced turnover did them.

With all of that being said, Kevin Durant will be the difference maker tonight. With nobody on the roster to match up with him (he'll be guarded by Kyle Korver, for Pete's sake) and his ability to grab rebounds, tonight should be an easy win if he can put out a good performance. The only way I could really see the Hawks winning this game is if they heat up from beyond the arc, find a way to contain Durant or Westbrook defensively, and grab the defensive boards they need. All easier said than done. But, don't get me wrong. There's some talent on this roster, I just think that based on their single game so far, that they don't match up well with OKC.

Lastly, keep an eye on the status of Kendrick Perkins. He rolled his left ankle late in the win against the Blazers and left the game. He should start today against the Hawks, but the man has been plagued by so many injuries that you never really know. The scariest thing is that if he goes down, Hasheem Thabeet could be our starter. Yikes.

Prediction: Oklahoma City Thunder 109, Atlanta Hawks 95