Andy Liu of Golden State of Mind stopped by to answer a few questions before tonight's 8 pm ET tip-off at Philips Arena.
Daniel Christian: Last year, these were the two best teams in the league when they met in February. This year, the Warriors have reached a new, perhaps unseen level of brilliance, while the Hawks have faltered and are now squarely in the middle of the pack. This game obviously doesn't carry the same excitement and gravitas as last year's, but the Hawks have some stake in it after playing rather poorly the last few games. This feels like a chance for a statement win. The Warriors deal with this type of tenacity from opposing teams every night; everyone wants to beat Golden State. I know this is a long-winded question but I like to hear myself talk, so I'll wrap it up: How is this team so terrifyingly consistent in beating everyone down? Do you ever feel like there is a trap game for a team as good and as focused as the Warriors?
Andy Liu: One of the scarier aspects of the Warriors is that they can be caught in a trap game and still pull off a blowout victory. They've been doing so at home even through last season and now against teams like the Dallas Mavericks and Phoenix Suns (on the road before the ASB). I'd say the reasons for the consistencies in the wins is the not the effort itself but the system each player has created for themselves and the team. The split cut action between Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry with Draymond Green in the post is unstoppable on any given night. The Green/Curry PNPs where Green is the ballhandler is obscenely effective against confused defenses. The offense has kicked it up ten notches from last season. As for trap games, there are plenty for GSW, and it usually comes with sloppy defensive efforts. I don't think tonight does count as one considering the team does remember they lost here last season. Like most athletes, they remember everything.
DC: I guess the last question begs the next one: Are the Warriors actually beatable? What are some weaknesses the Hawks might look to exploit tonight? Is there a team you particularly don't want to see in the playoffs, even though Golden State is obviously the one all other teams will be jockeying to avoid?
AL: They are beatable but it takes a perfect confluence of luck (GSW missing jumpers) and brilliance (Hawks making a lot of open shots preferably 3s). That usually takes about 3-4 long wing guys who can bother Steph while helping against the swing-swing-swing offense of the Warriors. That being said, I don't necessarily envision a team creating that GSW kryptonite in the next few months to win 4 out of 7. Arrogant? Yes. True? I think so.
DC: The 72-win season is a real possibility. I know it's all just speculation, but do you think the Warriors break the record? If they don't, are you prepared for the Crying Jordan memes that will accompany an 11th loss?
AL: I think they do because they are actively trying to get there. As evidenced by the way they play against top teams in national TV games, when this team is focused, they're unbeatable. Now, unless Steve Kerr goes full Gregg Popovich (which might happen), I'd put the probability of them breaking the record at around 75 percent. Though I would caution with the injuries to Andrew Bogut and Festus Ezeli, how much does GSW want Draymond Green soaking up so many C minutes?
DC: How do you feel about the matchup with Atlanta? Do the Hawks scare you at all? Are there any particular things you'll be looking for or are excited to see? Would you care to give a prediction on the outcome?
AL: The Atlanta Hawks were one of my favorite teams to watch last season and one I thought might give GSW a game or two in the NBA Finals. Alas, they took their proverbial foot off the gas pedal and coasted through the latter half of the season and succumbed to injuries in the playoffs. I don't necessarily think they blew a chance at a title but they certainly didn't go about it in the most proactive way, in my mind. Unfortunately, this iteration of the Hawks remains unable to capture the magic of last season and looks dispassionate on the floor and it appears into the future. I hate to be the bearer or these types of opinions but the Hawks' one-year run as a title contender seem just that: one year.