Game Preview Time!
Opponent: Atlanta Hawks(6-8)
Relevant Opposing Blogger: Impending Firestorm, Hawks Basketblog
The Hornets roll into Atlanta tonight for the first of a pair of back to back games. The Hawks take the court winners of 3 of their last 4 games, while the Hornets arrive losers of 3 of their last four games. Yeah, that's great.
The Hawks are a young team, with an average age of 25.1, and most of its starting line-up is still astonished they're legally allowed to drink now. The Hawks starters are Al Horford(21), Josh Smith(21), Marvin Williams(21), Joe Johnson(26), and Anthony Johnson(33, replacing Acie Law, 21). Even their primary bench guys, Josh Childress(24), Zaza Pachulia(23), Tyronn Lue(30), and Salim Stoudamire(25) are pretty young. As can be expected for young teams, they aren't that interested in passing and running an offense, posting a very low 18.9 assists a game, yet still averaging a mid-range number of turnovers. As a result, their shooting percentages aren't that high, particularly from 3, where they shoot an abysmal 31%.
On the flip side, all these youngsters are very athletic, and as a whole, they draw a good number of fouls, and can defend fairly well. It'll be interesting to watch the methodical Hornets try to pick apart this group of athletic thoroughbreds.
PG: Anthony Johnson vs. Chris Paul
Anthony is a wily veteran who can run a team and score a little. Last year he had some injury issues, but he seems healthy at this point in the season and will do fairly well at the point. At least, he'd do well if he wasn't going against Paul. And because I can't resist: Any Atlanta fans reading this? You could have had Chris Paul. He even said he wanted to play in Atlanta. Go Billy Knight!
SG: Joe Johnson vs. Morris Peterson
Johnson is a pure scorer who doesn't provide much else on the floor beyond points. But he is exceptional at producing those points. His three point shot isn't falling as much this year, but I'm fairly suspicious that it's just a momentary dip that sometimes occurs for good shooters. Joe is also capable of driving to the hole and dishing, witness his 5 assists a game. Morris can shoot and defend, but doesn't have the complete offensive game.
SF: Marvin Williams vs. Peja Stojakovic
Marvin has been making a concerted effort to take it to the hole this year, and has only taken three shots from deep all season. Instead, he's been drawing more fouls, taking closer shots, and his shooting percentage has climbed to a very solid 49%. Peja, on the other hand, stays on the perimeter and takes more long-distance shots than ever, hitting 47% of his threes. If he wants to hit that man, he can stay there, but happily he's also been a lot more effective recently when run off the three point line, hitting shots off two dribbles, or posting up and hitting a gorgeous fadeaway. These two players are very close, if very different.
PF: Josh Smith vs. David West
Without question, Smith is the better defender. Despite playing a gambling style that usually hurts a team more than it helps, he's so athletic that it's worth it, generating 2 steals and 4 blocks a game. Also without question is that West is a better offensive player than Smith. Smith forces his offense, and as a result turns the ball over a ton and shoots an awful 36% from the floor. He's also taking 2 threes a game, while hitting 19% from that distance. Fire away, Josh.
West, on the other hand, plays mediocre fundamental defense, but has multiple options on offense and is very efficient there. Because West is a little more dependable overall, I give him the edge by a hair.
C: Al Horford vs. Tyson Chandler
Horford has looked very good as a rookie. He rebounds well, defends well, and hits a high percentage of the shots he takes, unless they are free throws. Tyson Chandler can be described in the exact same way, and it's almost eerie how similar their stat lines are. Of course, Tyson's stats have been dragged down because of his semi-hobbled state. If the three days off have helped and it's healthy-knee Tyson taking the court, he's going to get back to his 13 rebounds a game and his advantage will be greater.
Advantage: Who the Hell knows?
Childress is a very efficient scorer off the bench, who does a lot of little things well. Zaza is ok. The rest of the Hawks bench is suspect. The entire Hornets bench is suspect right now. Some games, they look fantastic, other games they look like crap. We'll see.
I think the Hornets felt pretty embarassed by their loss to the Timberwolves, and will come to Atlanta ready to play. They also have been playing very well on the road so I'm going to call this one for the Hornets, 96-88.
For more on the Hawks game and the Dallas game I probably won't have time to preview tomorrow, go take a look at Ron Hitley's latest post. Have a good trip, Ron.