Following a successful six-game road trip, the Golden State Warriors will play 13 of their final 20 regular-season games at home.
There might not be a more ideal opponent to face than the one who they'll see to start that stretch.
Golden State plays the first of nine at home in an 11-game span Friday night against the free-falling Atlanta Hawks, who are trying to avoid a 13th loss in their past 14 as they cling to a playoff spot.
The Warriors (38-24) went 4-2 during their trip against Eastern Conference foes, which included consecutive wins to close it out. After handing Indiana just its fourth home loss of the season on Klay Thompson's jumper with 0.6 seconds left on Tuesday, Golden State never trailed in a 108-88 rout of Boston one night later.
"We wanted to finish strong and we had a lot of reasons not to, as far as back-to-back playing a hard fought game (against Indiana)," Thompson said. "But we responded the best way we could. Especially on the defensive end."
Even with the strong finish to the trip, returning home should serve the Warriors well. Golden State has won four of its last five on its home floor, making 41.2 percent of its 3-pointers.
Stephen Curry was especially efficient in those games, averaging 25.6 points on 59.7 percent shooting - including an astounding 71.0 percent (22 of 31) from 3-point range.
Thompson said the momentum from the road trip and the Warriors' recent success at home - they had lost five of seven at Oracle Arena prior to the solid stretch in February - will serve them well in the final quarter of the season.
"(The road trip) was huge, especially coming into these (last) 20 games," said the shooting guard. "If you want to climb up the rankings in the playoff seeding, you have to treat every game like it's your last. The West is a dogfight and going into (the game against) Atlanta feels great."
The Hawks (26-33) are in the middle of a six-game trip that's been a nightmare to this point. They've allowed 115.3 points per game thus far, with Wednesday's 102-78 defeat in Portland their four straight and 12th in the last 13.
Kyle Korver's NBA record streak of consecutive games with at least one 3-pointer was snapped at 127 as Atlanta shot a season-low 14.8 percent (4 of 27) from beyond the arc.
"Well, it was just a bad game all-around for us," Korver said. "I'm a little bummed for sure, but it was good while it lasted. I think someday we'll look back on (the streak) and be proud, but obviously it was just a tough game all-around for us and that was part of it."
The Hawks got center Pero Antic back from a 17-game absence but played their fifth straight without All-Star Paul Millsap, who is nursing a bruised right knee. It's unclear if Millsap will play Friday.
Millsap had 12 points on 3-of-14 shooting in Golden State's visit to Atlanta on Jan. 3, when it seemed the Hawks were in good shape with a 15-point lead with 6:48 left. But Curry had 11 of his 22 down the stretch before Andre Iguodala's 3-pointer at the buzzer gave the Warriors a 101-100 win - their fourth straight in this series.
Hawks point guard Jeff Teague averaged 27.3 points in the first four games Millsap missed before finishing with 10 on Wednesday, and facing Golden State may not help him bounce back. Teague has averaged 10.8 points and shot 33.9 percent in five career starts against the Warriors.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
All Rights Reserved