OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — The Golden State Warriors and Atlanta Hawks spent all season earning home-court advantage in the playoffs, quickly lost it in the second round, and then regained it.
Whether they’ve rediscovered their regular-season form is another matter.
The NBA’s top seeds are headed back home for pivotal Game 5s in their knotted up series. The Hawks host the banged-up Washington Wizards, and the Warriors welcome the gritty Memphis Grizzlies in Oakland tonight.
“The only thing we’ve done is get home court back, which is great. But there’s no guarantees of anything,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said after arriving in the Bay Area on Tuesday. “You have to compete. You got to play. We have to come with the same mindset, the same approach.”
After going down 2-1 and having their dream seasons on the brink of turning into nightmares, the Warriors and Hawks turned in series-saving performances on the road. Both clamped down on defense and got back to the ball-movement based systems that made them regular-season juggernauts.
“There’s nothing like going through good times and bad times or difficult games and quarters or situations in playoff games and understanding how to work your way through that,” Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer said. “That’s why people talk about playoff experience. That’s why people, I think, appreciate teams and players and people that maybe have more of those experiences and can draw from them and understand.
“We are building that and growing that. But at the end of the day, you either get it done or you don’t. So we want to be of the mindset that we want to get it done.”
Here’s a look at tonight’s games, all times Eastern:
Wizards at Hawks, Series tied 2-2, 8 p.m., TNT.
John Wall is officially listed as “questionable” on Washington’s injury report. The same might be said for the Wizards without their All-Star point guard.
Wall, who has begun dribbling again, has missed the last three games since suffering five non-displaced fractures in his left wrist and hand in Game 1 against Atlanta. Washington is 1-2 since Wall was injured, with the lone win coming on a buzzer-beating bank shot by Paul Pierce.
Of course, no team has won consecutive games in the series. No team has looked dominant, and no team seems to care where the games are played.
“We’re a resilient team. We don’t mind being on the road,” Pierce said, noting that the Wizards are 3-1 on the road in these playoffs.
Atlanta ran away with the Eastern Conference after going 35-6 at home in the regular season and winning its first three playoff contests at Philips Arena before Washington outworked them in Game 1.
The Hawks have been shaky in the first two rounds — home and away — but are coming off their best performance of the series. Atlanta got back to spreading the ball around in Game 4, with its All-Star quartet — Jeff Teague (26 points), Paul Millsap (19), Al Horford (18) and Kyle Korver (six) — leading the way in the biggest moments.
“Now we got to go back home and take care of business,” Teague said. “They beat us once on our home floor, so they’re comfortable playing there, but we got to make it a hostile environment.”
Grizzlies at Warriors, Series tied 2-2, 10:30 p.m., TNT.
Stephen Curry played at an MVP level, Klay Thompson started hitting shots and the Warriors looked like the team that rolled to a franchise-record 67 wins in Game 4.
While the offense finally got going, Golden State believes a defensive adjustment made the biggest difference.
The Warriors basically left defensive specialist Tony Allen open so center Andrew Bogut could be a help-side defender and double team Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph in the paint. The Grizzlies never had an answer for the unconventional approach, and Allen — who had dominated the previous two games — ended up playing just 16 minutes as he became a major liability.
Allen also has a sore left hamstring, and the Grizzlies said Tuesday night he is questionable to play in Game 5.
Allen had downplayed Golden State’s defensive move, saying he likes the matchup and “hopefully they’ll do it again and I’ll take advantage of it.” But it certainly seemed to work well for the Warriors, who took advantage of Allen’s limited role.
Golden State shot 47.5 percent from the floor and 42.4 percent (14 for 33) from 3-point range. The Warriors had made just 12 3s in the previous two games combined.
“It was a little different look than I think they had ever seen,” Warriors forward Andre Iguodala said. “So they’re going to adjust to it, and that’s why I say, ‘We’ve just got to keep getting better, keep watching film and getting ready to bring it.'”
The playoff-tested Grizzlies are no strangers to adversity.
Memphis won Game 5 at Oklahoma City in the first round last season — of course they lost the next two games to drop the series — and are confident coming back to the NBA’s toughest road venue. The Warriors went 39-2 at home and won their first three playoff contests at Oracle Arena before the Grizzlies stunned them in Game 2.
It’s why Memphis coach Dave Joerger said his veteran team is not overreacting to one loss.
“(Tuesday) in Memphis was like, ‘Oh my gosh,'” Joerger said, chuckling. “That’s the playoffs. You’re going to be high, you’re going to be low within 48 hours. If we’re going to sit here with our heads down, that would be a big mistake.”
AP Sports Writers Paul Newberry in Atlanta; Teresa M. Walker in Memphis, Tennessee; and Howard Fendrich and AP freelance writer Benjamin Standig in Washington contributed to this story.
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