The matchup of Saturday night's game between the San Antonio Spurs and Atlanta Hawks will be between Tiago Splitter and Al Horford.
The Spurs are coming off a disappointing loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder and have dropped three of their last four games. The news didn't get better as the team will be without starting point guard Tony Parker (sore neck) and will have to make up his contributions elsewhere when the Hawks visit the AT&T Center. This will make the Splitter/Horford matchup more valuable as the Spurs will have to depend on their taller guys from the forward and center positions to make up for what's lost without Parker, which is also Atlanta's main game with their two big men inside the paint.
What Splitter must do on offense:
Splitter's counterpart is one of the better defenders in the paint, so this matchup doesn't favor Splitter well on the offensive side of the floor. Look for Tiago to be more active in setting back screens and also moving without the ball. He likely won't have success backing down Al Horford in the paint like he has other big men in the league and it wouldn't be the smartest idea since the Hawks likely won't even think about double teaming him. This would leave Splitter on his own during the play and likely have negative results. Without Tony Parker or Manu Ginobili, he'll have to find the patience of moving and not getting the ball since the team's two best passers won't be on the floor, but he'll get the ball if he's wide open enough.
What Splitter must do on defense:
In their last meeting, Horford shot 0% (0-5) from the paint and restricted area. The Spurs' defensive minded big men had a lot to do with that and this game should be no exception with Tim Duncan playing alongside Tiago Splitter. Horford was forced to shoot mid range jump shots where he shot 100% (2-2). Although he shot perfect from mid range when Splitterw was on the floor, that's a shot you'll take from Horford any day. This removes the threat of ball movement and wide open shots from the three-point arc, something that would likely occur if he was backing down Splitter and kicking out to open shooters. If Splitter forces Horford to shoot jumpers throughout the night, that'll leave Tiago a step closer to help out in the paint against players driving to the rim.