It was the potential NBA Finals preview everyone was clamoring to see, the Super Bowl of the NBA regular season.
But the Golden State Warriors decisively dismissed the East-leading Atlanta Hawks, crushing them while proving that home court advantage will be a deadly weapon for any who land in Golden State.
The Warriors split the season series against the Eastern Conference-leading Atlanta Hawks with a 114-95 victory Wednesday night.
With Thompson sidelined and Curry hitting just twice from beyond the arc, Warriors head coach Steve Kerr told SFBay getting the ball out of Curry’s hands and starting a chain reaction of rotations was key:
“For us to make 14 threes without Klay and on a night where Steph is two-for-six, it tells you a big part of the story was their attention to Steph and our guys responding to that and getting open and knocking down good looks.”
Barnes said the Warriors expect to see teams load up on Curry and Thompson in the playoffs, and the rest of the team knows they’ll have to make up for it with offensive aggression:
“The way they played Steph tonight is probably the way teams are going probably going to start playing him, especially down the stretch. They’re going to double-team him and he’s going to have to pass out and the rest of us are gonna have to make plays.”
Make plays is just what Barnes did. He led the way for Golden State with a season-high 25 points on a career-high tying 11 made field goals, finding the hot hand in the opening minutes to give the Warriors an early lead, but turnover trouble allowed Atlanta to stay close.
Iguodala and Green started their standout night late in the first half, ramping up on the defensive end, giving the Warriors a 12-point advantage at the midway point.
Even though Iguodala finished the night with a season-high 21 points to go with six assists, it was his effort on the defensive end that stood out.
Kerr said Iguodala was the key to breaking free of the Hawks and explained that for Iguodala, the points don’t mean as much and it pays off when defense comes first:
“Andre is a defensive minded player. Every player is a little different with his approach to the game and his approach is from a defensive standpoint. He would rather make a stop than get a basket. His defense was spectacular tonight.”
Atlanta was able to cut the Warriors lead to eight points with DeMarre Carroll (16 points 12 rebounds) hitting much needed shots, but a late third-quarter surge from the Warriors pushed the lead back to double digits.
That surge continued into the final frame with Barnes and Iguodala locked in.
Early in the fourth, Iguodala nabbed the ball from former Warrior Kent Bazemore twice for easy back-to-back fast-break buckets, and the pace was contagious as Barnes scored 10 of his points in the final stanza.
Iguodala and Barnes, aided by reserves Shaun Livingston, Festus Ezeli, and Leandro Barbosa, rattled off a slew of offensive and defensive highlights pushing the Warriors lead to as many as 29 points in the fourth quarter putting the game completely out of reach for the Hawks.
Atlanta closed the gap in garbage time, but it was ultimately the best team in the NBA that came away victorious.
The Warriors, now an NBA-best 54-13, continue their six-game home stand with back-to-back games Friday and Saturday against the Pelicans (37-30) and Jazz (30-36).
The Warriors improved to 35-0 this season when holding the opposition to fewer than 100 points. … The Warriors dished out a season-high 39 assists on 44 made field goals — an NBA season-high assist percentage of 88.6 percent — It’s the NBA-best 25th time the Warriors have had at least 30 assists in a game. … Stephen Curry recorded his 19th double-double of the season with 16 points and 12 assists, hitting a three-pointer in his 58th consecutive game. … Andrew Bogut grabbed 14 rebounds in 22 minutes without registering a point, the most rebounds he’s ever grabbed without scoring. … Marries Speights scored eight points off the bench, setting a single-season career-high with 666 total points.