Tip-Off: 7 PM CST
Location: Chesapeake Energy Arena (Oklahoma City, OK)
Radio: The Sports Animal
Twitter: Follow @TheThunderGuys for live-tweets during the game
Player to Watch
PF Paul Millsap is the established leader in Atlanta, and he leads the Hawks in scoring with 17.0 points per game. He also averages 8.0 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 1.7 steals, and 1.0 blocks per game. Two weeks ago when the Thunder played the Hawks in Atlanta, Millsap led the way for the Hawks with 24 points on 8/14 shooting from the field and 7/11 from the free throw line. Oklahoma City needs to play Millsap with more intensity to prevent him from putting up big numbers and helping his team to gather momentum in what should be an exciting road game for the Hawks.
Keys to the Game
- Defensive Intensity: Atlanta is a team that struggles to take care of the ball. Despite ranking 5th in the NBA with 23.2 assists a game, the Hawks rank 28th in turnovers with 16.6 a game. Atlanta also continues to struggle at the free throw line, shooting 70.9% as a team (29th in the league). Two weeks ago, the Thunder forced 18 Hawk turnovers, but Atlanta tallied 26 assists. The Hawks also shot a solid 24/32 from the free throw line. Oklahoma City needs to come out and play aggressive defense from tip-off until the final buzzer sounds.
- Take Care of the Ball: Atlanta ranks 4th in the NBA in forcing turnovers with opponents averaging 15.6 a game, while Oklahoma City ranks 23rd in the league in turnovers with 15.7 a game. In Oklahoma City’s first matchup with Atlanta, the Thunder turned the ball over 19 times which resulted in 19 points for the Hawks. The Thunder needs to take care of the ball lest silly mistakes lead to the Hawks racking up easy points.
- Dominate Down Low: Oklahoma City continues to lead the league in points in the paint with 50.5 per game, but Atlanta holds their own by averaging 44.9 points in the paint per game. The Hawks held the Thunder to only 36 points down low in their first meeting while putting up 44 of their own. This allowed Atlanta to keep the game close. Oklahoma City needs to impose its power upon Atlanta and take control of the game by keeping control of the paint on both ends of the floor.
Article written by Zack Low. Follow @TheThunderGuys on Twitter and Instagram.