Preview: Kings at Hawks

THE OPPONENT

Atlanta is ridiculously good, compared to last year. Plenty of credit should go to Jamal Crawford, the single notable addition. (Sorry, Joe Smith.) But the internal growth is a huge part of this. Josh Smith getting religion. Al Horford becoming one of the top interior defenders in the league. Joe Johnson finding a way to join his friends in symphony. Marvin Williams refining his already strong defense. Just brilliant internal growth, which probably means Mike Woodson deserves more credit than he'll get. I don't know who the hell fixed Smith's offense, but they deserve a Nobel.

The Hawks have the league's No. 3 offense and No. 12 defense. That defense can still improve -- yes, even with Mike Bibby manning the point. If the offense maintains its gaudy standard, this is a team which can beat any Eastern contender other than Cleveland. (The Hawks don't match up well against the Cavs, and while I'd enjoy such a series, Cleveland would be massive favorites.)

LAST TIME

The Kings nearly beat Atlanta in November's Sacramento match-up. Kevin Martin had 29/10 with a broken wrist in that one. The Hawks pulled away at the end.

KEY BATTLE

Bigs vs. bigs. Josh Smith is a terror, and Horford is woefully undersung as a defender. Jason Thompson might have a tough time scoring -- if Horford marks him and Smith helps, it's a block waiting to happen. If it's the other way around, it's a block waiting to happen. Thompson needs to rely on set-up passes from his guards and needs to focus on the boards. The days of Thompson being an offensive focal point should be over, or at least stalled. It's not working, and it's not likely to work against such an impressive defensive squad. Jon Brockman, Thompson's partner tonight, is never an offensive threat, and needs to make his impact on the boards, as he no doubt will.

BOLD PROCLAMATION

Donte Greene will outscore Marvin Williams. Omri Casspi will outscore Donte Greene. Kevin Martin will outscore Omri Casspi.

BOLD BROCKLAMATION

Jon Brockman will run at least one waffle house out of business by noon.

DETAILS

Tip at 4 PM. Two game threads (4, 5:15) and a post-gamer (6:45). Go Kings.

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