Los Angeles Clippers vs. Atlanta Hawks
7:30 p.m. PST
March 8, 2014
FOX Prime Ticket
1. The Hawks have lost 13 of 14. What his been their biggest problem over this swoon?
Bo Churney, HawksHoop, (@bochurney): Injuries, injuries, and more injuries. Al Horford has been out since late December, but the Hawks were staying afloat with Paul Millsap, Pero Antic, and Gustavo Ayon. However, all three of those players have missed time over this 13-of-14 losing stretch, literally leaving the Hawks with only two healthy bigs players (Mike Scott and Elton Brand) for some games.
Robby Kalland, Hawks.com, (@RKalland): Health. The Hawks roster has been hit hard by the injury bug, starting with Al Horford, and has found its way to nearly every member of the frontcourt. This has forced Coach Bud to play some strange lineups with Mike Scott at center sometimes or DeMarre Carroll/Cartier Martin playing at the four which just doesn’t work out.
Seth Partnow, (@WhrOffnsHppns): Injuries. The Hawks have actually done well to be in contention in a lot of those games considering they’ve been down two All-Star caliber players in Brand and Millsap as well as their backups in Antic and Ayon. No team is deep enough to compete consistently without their top four bigs. DeMarre Carroll has missed time, as has Jeff Teague. At a certain point, a team can’t overcome having that much talent out of the lineup, and the Hawks are struggling because the players on the floor aren’t really “the Hawks.”
2. Which Hawks player is/would be most effective guarding Chris Paul?
Churney: Probably DeMarre Carroll, especially with the Clippers dealing with some injuries of their own. Without JJ Redick, it is easier for the Hawks to put Jeff Teague on someone else and instead have their most effective perimeter defender (Carroll) guarding Paul. Atlanta’s second best option on CP3 would be Shelvin Mack, and I would be surprised to see Carroll on Paul outside of the fourth quarter.
Kalland: Shelvin Mack. Mack and Jeff Teague will guard Paul for the majority of the game and Teague’s defensive presence has not been great lately even though his offensive output has started to come around. Mack is not a great defender, but tends to do a better job staying attached to his man than does Teague.
Partnow: Probably Shelvin Mack. Teague isn’t a great defender to begin with, and Paul’s physicality will overwhelm him. Same with Lou Williams, and while Dennis Schroeder seems like he has solid defensive potential, he’s a 20-year-old rookie, also slight of build. Mack gives up some quickness to Paul, but he isn’t going to get bullied.
3. True or false: The Hawks will make the playoffs in the East.
Churney: True. Yes, the Hawks have lost a lot recently, but Antic and Millsap are due to return to the lineup soon. After the Clippers game, the Hawks schedule also starts to ease up with 13 of their final 21 games at home, with only nine of those being against teams over .500. They should be fine.
Kalland: True. It looks bad now, but they still somehow have a three game lead on Detroit for eighth, and once Millsap returns and they get closer to having a healthy lineup, I think this team will start playing better. If they can play anything close to .500 basketball for their final 20 games, that will be enough to make the playoffs in the East.
Partnow: True. Somewhat by default, but also they’ll grind out just enough wins with Millsap back in the fold to “hold off” the “charge” from Detroit, Cleveland or New York. It’s unfortunate they will likely limp in, as before Horford went down, they looked to be about one piece away from being an extremely credible challenger for the No. 3 seed out east and actually posing a threat to the Miami-Indiana axis.