Who: Atlanta Hawks vs Charlotte Bobcats
What: NBA Basketball – Hawks Home Game
When: 7:30 PM ET
Where: Live at Phillips Arena
|Atlanta||8-4||99.1 (20)||95.6 (1)||95.4 (9)|
|Charlotte||7-6||96.2 (27)||102.1 (19)||96.4 (4)|
Atlanta: Devin Harris (QUESTIONABLE)
Charlotte: Bismack Biyombo (DTD), Gerald Henderson (OUT), Tyrus Thomas (OUT)
|PG||Jeff Teague||Kemba Walker|
|SG||Devin Harris||Ramon Sessions|
|SF||Kyle Korver||Michael Kidd-Gilchrist|
|PF||Josh Smith||Byron Mullens|
|C||Al Horford||Brendan Haywood|
|6th Man||Louis Williams||Jeffery Taylor|
After Monday night’s 45 point collapse in Oklahoma City, the Bobcats return to action in Atlanta tonight. The Hawks are currently riding a five game winning streak and statistically playing the best defense in the entire league. Doesn’t sound like a great mix for this Charlotte team who has struggled to score the ball and only shot 38.7% from the field in the last five games. New QCH addition Gregory Pietras joins Mathew and I to breakdown the keys to tonight’s game.
1- STATS: Although Atlanta does like to play at a quicker PACE than most (95.4; 9th), they also lead the league in defensive efficiency. That speaks for the hustle factor this team is playing with right now- pushing the tempo, but also investing a lot in getting back defensively and forcing teams into tough shots. What offensive fold will Charlotte have to throw at the Hawks tonight to expose their No. 1 ranked defense?
Spencer: It’s kind of weird how Atlanta is the No. 1 ranked defense. They’re not forcing teams to shoot as many long two’s as you would think, and in fact, teams are shooting less long two’s against Atlanta (per NBA.com) than any other team in the league. This suggest teams are getting shots around the basket and three point attempts. Where the Hawks defense is excelling is in forcing turnovers- they lead the league, forcing their opponents to give the ball away 18 times/game. So, the answer to the question is for the Bobcats to take care of the basketball, because you can get quality shots against Atlanta. 12 turnovers, or less and I think Charlotte has a chance to make a game of it.
Mathew: Transition. The Bobcats are not an efficient half-court offense, so in order to see some level of success against the Hawks they will need to force turnovers and get out in transition. Look for Kemba and the perimeter players to gamble a bit to try and make this happen.
Greg: You don’t post a high efficiency like that without it being a team effort, but the defensive core for the Hawks is still their frontcourt of Al Horford and Josh Smith. It might be a little counterintuitive, but I’d like to see the Bobcats get aggressive in the paint early. If they can get one or both of those guys in foul trouble, it’ll make it easier for Charlotte’s offense to operate. It might help to sub in Ramon Sessions earlier than usual: he’s the best on the team at drawing fouls, and took 11 trips to the free-throw line in their last game against the Hawks.
2- OPINION: Ramon Sessions (16.4 PPG, 4 APG, 3.8 RPG, 18.69 PER) and Louis Williams (13.3 PPG, 3.4 APG, 20.29 PER) were both good free agent pick-ups for Charlotte and Atlanta this off-season, but which has been more important to his team’s success thus far this season?
Spencer: In the last 5 minutes of games this season that are 5 point games or less (Clutch stats- NBA.com) Sessions has played 41 minutes in 8 games. In those games, he’s scored 27 points on 44.4% shooting. Williams, on the other hand, has only played in 9 minutes of CLUTCH time, scored 9 points and shot 30%. The Hawks obviously haven’t had nearly as many CLUTCH scenarios, but the point here is that Sessions has consistently bailed the Bobcats out late in games and is a huge reason that they’re currently 6-0 in games decided by 6 points or less. I’ll take Sessions.
Mathew: Ramon Sessions. Williams has been a nice add for the Hawks, no doubt; but Sessions may be the Bobcats’ MVP through 13 games. Sessions has been on the floor in the waning moments of each close game and has proven instrumental in a handful of victories. Williams is a quasi-luxury for Atlanta. Sessions is a necessity for Charlotte.
Greg: Both are having great seasons so far, but it’s hard not to go with Ramon. Williams joined a Hawks squad with an established set of veterans and a relatively clear idea of what the team’s identity would be; Sessions, at 26, is one of the older rotation players on the Bobcats and an important stabilizing presence off the bench. He’s also taken some of the pressure to create offense off of Kemba, allowing him to pick his spots and play a more efficient game.
3- PICK IT: Bobcats or Hawks? The answer seems obvious here as Atlanta comes into tonight on a five game winning streak and on three days rest, but is there anyone who’s a believer that the Bobcats will turn it around after Monday night’s debacle?
Spencer: Hawks. In the first meeting of the season in Charlotte, Atlanta shot 53.8% for the game. If they come anywhere close to that mark tonight then this one really won’t be close, because Atlanta isn’t going to turn the ball over 22 times like they did on 11/23.
Mathew: Hawks. Tonight’s game will show the fans of Charlotte what they really have in this team, regardless of result. How will they respond after the drubbing they took two nights ago against the Thunder? I myself think they respond. Not necessarily in victory, but in effort and execution. That said, the Hawks are a tough matchup inside for the Bobcats, especially with the absence/possible ineffectiveness of Biyombo due to injury. Bobcats keep it close but fall to Atlanta.
Greg: I think it’ll be another convincing win for the Hawks, similar to their 10-point victory on Nov. 23. In a way, this game is as much a test for the coaches as the players. Atlanta shot 11-for-22 from three-point range in that previous matchup, and it’ll be important for the staff to make adjustments to limit those open looks. Of course, Horford also dominated inside, going 13-for-17 for 26 points. Showing improvement in either of those areas, and bouncing back strong after their total disaster against OKC, would be a moral victory for the Cats.