Tough test awaits Warriors in Atlanta
Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry have more made three-pointers this year (205) than the entire Grizzlies, Bulls, Bobcats and Pelicans teams. (USATSI)
Programming note: Warriors-Hawks coverage tips off Friday at 4 p.m. with Warriors Pregame Live on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area (territorial restrictions apply)
From the smashing victory over the defending champions to the seven-game win streak to their burgeoning confidence, the Warriors on Friday rolled into Atlanta with the wind at their backs.
They have good reason to believe it can stay there for awhile.
The Hawks may have a winning record (18-14), but these are not your father's Hawks or even your older brother's Hawks. They don't have a perennial All-Star, which Dominique Wilkins was in the 1980s, and they don't have the imposing nucleus of recent seasons. Forward Josh Smith left as a free agent and big man Al Horford sustained a torn pectoral muscle last month and is out for the season.
The Hawks are led by forward Paul Millsap and point guard Jeff Teague. The roster beyond that is sub-standard, with only reserves Kyle Korver and Louis Williams as additional scoring threats.
In short, this is a game the Warriors (21-13) can win in a walk -- even though it's a road back-to-back -- assuming they're not floating in the wake of their victory over the Heat in Miami.
And there is no sign of that.
"We are not going to overreact on the win, negatively or positively," coach Mark Jackson said. "We know who we are. Now it is about sticking to the game plan and fulfilling the call."
Said point guard Stephen Curry: "It's more just about what we're doing. Obviously, we knew who we were playing against and how tough it is to win (in Miami), but it's more about continuing our performance that we've put on in the last two weeks."
That's exactly what it's about. So the biggest issue facing the Warriors on Friday is maintaining the intensity. If they can, it's a sign of continuing maturity. If they can't, it means they're still learning the characteristics necessary to be a legitimate contender.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH: David Lee vs. Paul Millsap. Lee is playing very well lately and so is Millsap, who has added the 3-point shot to his arsenal. With Horford out, though, the 6-foot-8 Millsap even spends minutes at center. No matter where, he's not talented enough to carry a team.
Stephen Curry vs. Jeff Teague. The battle of point guards is a study in contrasts, as Curry is a marvelous shooter who has evolved into a terrific playmaker. Teague is an improving player who does nothing especially well but is a steady, stable floor leader.
SERIES HISTORY: The Warriors have won their last three games against the Hawks and 13 of the last 21. Their last loss in Atlanta was in December 2010.
INJURY UPDATE: For the Warriors: Centers Jermaine O'Neal (right wrist surgery) and Festus Ezeli (right knee surgery) are out.
For the Hawks: Center Al Horford (torn pectoral muscle) is out. Forward DeMarre Carroll (thumb) is probable. Guard John Jenkins (back, leg) is day to day.