Programming note: Warriors-Hawks coverage starts tonight at 4 p.m. with Warriors Pregame Live on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area, and streaming live right here.
Well, it's finally here. The game we've all been waiting for. Who would have thought, even two months ago, that Warriors-Hawks would be such a highly anticipated marquee matchup?
That's exactly what we'll have Friday at Philips Arena insofar as the Warriors (39-8) own the best record in the Western Conference and the Hawks (41-9) own the best record in the Eastern Conference.
"Welcome to the NBA Finals," Warriors coach Steve Kerr said, joking with the atypically large mob of reporters covering shootaround Friday morning.
It's a battle of two teams that have spent the first half of this season shedding reputations for being relatively insignificant -– each has gone more than two decades without winning a division championship –- while climbing to the top of the NBA.
"It means a lot," Warriors forward Draymond Green said. "We can sit and say 'It's just another game.' For the standings, it is. But those are the two top records in the league. That means a lot. We look forward to playing against them, and I'm sure they look forward to playing against us."
The Hawks have had a 20-game win streak, longest in the league this season. The Warriors have had a 16-game win streak, second longest of the season.
Hawks by 1.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH
Klay Thompson vs. Kyle Korver. Korver is having a phenomenal season, shooting 53.2 percent beyond the arc, prompting national TV analyst Charles Barkley to say if he were a coach he'd fine any player who left Korver open. Korver will have to earn his looks against Thompson, a fine defender capable of torching Korver on offense.
Stephen Curry vs. Jeff Teague. Curry is coming off an epic performance and Teague recently outplayed Washington's John Wall. Teague is having by far his best season, scoring in double figures 21 consecutive games. A solid defender, his top priority will be containing Curry.
Draymond Green vs. Paul Millsap. On a team where all five starters average double figures – from a low of 11.6 points per game to a high of 17.2 –- it's Millsap who leads Atlanta in scoring. He shoots the trey but 3-point still crashes the glass. These two are more similar on offense, but Green is the more complete defender.
KEYS TO VICTORY
1) Cherish the ball. The Warriors have done a nice job of lowering their turnover rate. If they get careless against this bunch, they'll pay a heavy price.
2) Own the arc at both ends. The Warriors lead the league in 3-point shooting percentage. The Hawks are No. 2 -– and they've shot even more treys.
3) Clean the glass. If the Hawks have a weakness, it's rebounding; they rank 26th in the league. If the Warriors lose this battle, they almost certainly lose the game.
LAST 10: Warriors 8-2, Hawks 9-1.
Warriors: No injuries listed.
Hawks: G Shelvin Mack (left calf strain) is listed as questionable. G Thabo Sefolosha (right calf strain) is listed as out.
The Warriors have won the last five meetings, their longest win streak over Atlanta since winning seven straight from 2003-05. Only twice in the past 13 seasons have the Warriors lost the season series. In 281 meetings overall, Atlanta holds a 141-140 edge.