Monday, December 29, 2008
Game 32: Nuggets @ Hawks
(Boulder-CO) The Mile High crew is down in the dirty south tonight to take on the dirty birds. The Atlanta Hawks are a solid team, led by an amazing player, of which the Nuggets should not take lightly.
The Hawks are currently riding a four-game win streak after once again falling short against their Eastern Conference nemesis, Boston Celtics. Individually, Atlanta's Joe Johnson is playing fantastic basketball with a triple-double and a season-high 41 points in his last two games. Johnson is averaging 23.2 points, 5.7 assists, and 4.7 rebounds so far this season and is shooting better than 45% from the field doing so.
Tonight's game also concludes an eight-game homestand for the Hawks where they are a very stout 13-2 on the year. Atlanta is 6-1 so far during this stretch which includes impressive wins over the Cavaliers, Pistons, and Bulls.
The starting five for the Hawks has been just as impressive as their 19-10 record. All five average double-digits in scoring, but it's the balance they provide that makes this team so talented. Mike Bibby comes into tonight's game averaging 16 points, 5.1 assists, and better than three rebounds, but it's his career-high +3.5 assist to turnover ratio that fuels the Hawks. Power forward Marvin Williams is also a big reason for the Hawks success. Williams is averaging career-highs of 6.4 rebounds and minutes per game while averaging just a shade under 14 points. His continued development is adding merit to the Hawks drafting the one-year Tarheel second overall in the 2005 NBA Draft.
The young Hawks are also seeing big things out of their undersized big man, Al Horford. The 6'10" second-year pro is averaging 10.9 points, 8.6 rebounds, and a career-high 2.8 assists while his shooting percentage is up above 50%, and his block average has nearly doubled since his rookie year. For the Nuggets to be successful, Nene needs to tutor this young big man down in the blocks in an attempt to lure him into foul trouble early as the Hawks are not deep on big men.
At small forward, we are in for a treat tonight as two of the most exciting players at the position face off. Josh Howard and Carmelo Anthony seem to relish in the opportunity to face one another. 'Melo has enjoyed more overall success against Smith and the Hawks averaging 25.9 points in nine career games against Atlanta, including putting up 31.0 in two meetings with the dirty birds last season. But, Smith is a defensive player and that's what makes this match-up exciting. Josh Smith is leading the team in blocks at 1.8 rejections nightly and is second on the team in rebounding behind Al Horford. And look out below when Smith takes flight around the hoop because the former Slam Dunk Champ has some serious hangtime!
I'm excited about tonight's game because I think the Hawks are the Nuggets of the East; a team on the rise with a lot to prove.