If the Atlanta Hawks want to beat the Oklahoma City Thunder, Al Horford and Paul Millsap need to have big games. So far this season the big men for the Hawks are having spectacular years, and tonight they will need to be spectacular again in order to beat the Thunder. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook bring a red-hot team to Atlanta that will not back down from any opponent.
Horford has been a major presence on both ends of the floor so far this season. Currently, Horford leads the team with 17.5 points per game. His improvement to his mid-range jumper has been a major reason as to why he and the Hawks are having early success this season. On defense, Horford continues to dominate the glass averaging eight rebounds per game to lead the team in that category as well. In order to beat the Thunder, Horford will have to put up very similar numbers. Honestly, I believe Horford may need to put up a double-double tonight for a chance at victory.
Millsap has numbers that fall just shy of Horford but are equally impressive. This season, he is averaging 16.2 points and 7.7 rebounds per game for the Hawks, and he may be the x-factor against the Thunder. I believe his performance will be the key tonight because Millsap is a mismatch for the Thunder. The Hawks cannot afford for Millsap to underachieve. If he does, I just don’t see how the Hawks could possibly win this game without some type of miraculous performance from either their bench or another starter.
The Hawks, however, may have the answer for how to defeat the Thunder. Oklahoma City lacks in one key area and that is their interior defense. Kendrick Perkins and Serge Ibaka represent the Thunder down low and are good players in their own right, but they cannot handle teams that attack the rim. Perkins and Ibaka are soft in the interior and should not be able to impose their will tonight. Instead, Horford and Millsap will be too much to handle due their physicality and willingness to attack the rim. The Hawks have to be able to take advantage of this mismatch in order to exploit the weakness of the Thunder. If the Hawks don’t establish their low-post game, this game could be a nightmare as the Thunder have the potential to blow them out.
Atlanta has to bring their A-game tonight in order to beat the Thunder. Durant and Westbrook will get their points, but the question is can Horford and Millsap get theirs? If they can, this gives the Hawks a chance to win against a top caliber team.