The frontline duo of Josh Smith and Al Horford continues to be
one of the biggest reasons for the Atlanta Hawks’ success – or at
times, lack thereof – especially of late.
Both players will look to take advantage of an opponent that has
struggled with interior defense recently Friday night against the
visiting New Orleans Hornets.
New Orleans will try to end a four-game road losing streak and
avenge its 95-86 home loss to Atlanta on New Year’s Day. Smith and
Horford combined to score 43 points on 21-of-37 shooting in that
game as the Hornets allowed 50 points in the paint.
The Hawks (27-21) have split their last 10 games, but they got
22 points and a season-high 13 assists from Jeff Teague in a 103-92
home win against Memphis on Wednesday.
Smith and Horford combined for 36 points and each posted 11
“We were clicking on all cylinders,” Teague said. “Al was
getting out and running, getting rebounds. Josh was getting out and
leading the breaks, and guys were making shots.”
Horford is averaging 22.8 points and shooting 58.7 percent over
the last four Hawks victories he’s played in, while Smith is
putting up 21.5 points and 12.3 rebounds per game in Atlanta’s last
Overall in Atlanta victories this season, the duo is shooting
52.3 percent, compared to a 44.6 percent mark in losses.
The Hornets (16-33) had lost six of seven while allowing an
average of 50.0 points in the paint before a 93-84 home victory
against Phoenix on Wednesday.
New Orleans, which ranks in the league’s bottom third in
allowing opponents to average 43.5 points in the paint, still gave
up 42 to the Suns. But it was a sharp contrast from the 62 and 58
yielded to Denver and Minnesota in the previous two games.
The effort snapped a four-game slide after coach Monty Williams
ran the team through what he dubbed “training-camp style” practices
on Monday and Tuesday.
“One of the primary focuses of the two practices on Monday and
Tuesday was just our aggressiveness,” said Robin Lopez, who has
shot 70 percent or better in four of his last five games. “We want
to make sure we went out there and beat up on each other, and it
was nice to see some carry-over.”
Greivis Vasquez had 19 points on 8-of-9 shooting while adding 12
assists with no turnovers Wednesday. He trails only injured point
guards Rajon Rondo and Chris Paul with 9.4 assists per game.
He’s also averaging 15.4 points during the Hornets’ improved
11-11 stretch since Christmas.
New Orleans’ Ryan Anderson scored 23 points in the first meeting
with Atlanta, but the Hawks shot 49.4 percent from the field. Eric
Gordon struggled in his second game back from injury, hitting 5 of
17 shots and committing four turnovers.
Gordon, averaging 16.4 points and helping the Hornets go 9-7
when he’s active, was 3 of 14 from the field Wednesday after
missing two of the previous three games with lingering knee
“I am still not 100 percent,” Gordon said. “I am battling
Atlanta’s Kyle Korver tied Mookie Blaylock’s franchise record
for consecutive games with a 3-pointer at 42 on Wednesday and can
surpass the mark Friday.