|2012-2013 NBA Season|
The Atlanta Hawks (15-7)
|December 19th, 2012|
|Philips Arena, Atlanta, Georgia|
|6:30 PM CST|
|Fox Sports Network Oklahoma, SportSouth|
|WWLS the Sports Animal (98.1), Sports Radio 680 The Fan|
|Soaring Down South|
|Previous Meetings: Nov 4th (Hawks Lead Season Series 1-0)|
|Russell Westbrook||PG||Jeff Teague|
|Thabo Sefolosha||SG||Devin Harris|
|Kevin Durant||SF||Kyle Korver|
|Serge Ibaka||PF||Josh Smith|
|Kendrick Perkins||C||Al Horford|
As we found out in this season's third game, the Hawks are a very dangerous team. Without star Josh Smith, the Hawks were able to spread the floor and exploit mismatches against the Thunder, creating one of this season's most disappointing losses.
Can the Hawks do it again? Absolutely. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that it's likely the Hawks are able to halt the Thunder's win streak at 11. That is, if the Thunder aren't willing to change their lineups to counter the Hawks style. You see, every single player on the Hawks can shoot, so they're excellent at drawing our slow centers out of the paint in order to grab open shots and get some easy baskets down low. Couple that with some excellent three point shooting and decent ability to protect the ball, and you've got a recipe for a Thunder disaster.
What can the Thunder do to prevent this disaster? Well, first of all, they need to give Hasheem Thabeet a game off and put in Reggie Jackson. Obviously Thabeet is a decent center, but he's the type of guy who will get obliterated against Zaza Pachulia, just like Tiago Splitter did to him on Monday. Reggie Jackson, on the other hand, can keep up with the Hawks quicker two guard who like to charge into the lane, and the Thunder won't suffer from a lack of size.
The Thunder also need to see better production out of Westbrook and Durant. Last time, both of them struggled. For Westbrook, who was constantly trapped and running bad pick and rolls, his struggles were understandable. But Kevin Durant just looked bad. He was passive when he needed to be active, he took too many jumpers, and he lost the ball six times.
But at the end of the day, the Thunder really need to limit their turnovers. Don't let the offense becomes so predictable that the Hawks know exactly how to trap it. Work other players in, try to get the bigs some points down low, and try to get them into foul trouble.
It's also worth noting the perspective of J.A. Sherman, who is of the belief that if we kept Al Horford off the glass, the game would be a lot more winnable. That's certainly a good perspective to consider, because offensive rebounds provide excellent opportunities to kick the ball out for easy points. It's hard to say exactly how the Thunder would overcome that, but hey, if Perk can box out and keep Horford away from the boards, I'm all for it.
Anyway, tonight's game should be a high-scoring and highly entertaining affair, and I'd definitely recommend throwing it on TV if you're on the fence about it. I know it always sucks to predict a defeat, but I really think the Hawks are just going to have our number this year, and Scott Brooks won't be adventurous enough to adjust his rotations in time. But hay, I've been wrong before.
Prediction: Atlanta Hawks 109, Oklahoma City Thunder 103.