It seems like the Atlanta Hawks have been trying to clamp down that pesky playoff spot for about a week. On Saturday night, it may finally become a realty.
Joe Johnson, Al Horford and the rest of the struggling Hawks return to Philips Arena to take on the lowly New Jersey Nets on Saturday night. Atlanta's basketball team just needs to win to secure a return to the postseason dance.
As Hawks fans know all-too-well, wins have not been easy to come by for this team, which has lost eight of its last 11 games.
Atlanta will get sort of a break. Nets point guard Deron Williams is expected to miss this one with a sore right wrist. That means that a pretty terrible New Jersey team should be very beatable for Atlanta. However, the Nets do have Brook Lopez, who absolutely terrorizes the Hawks (24 points per game in three games vs. ATL this season).
The Nets have also beaten Atlanta two times this season. However, both of those wins came in Newark. The Nets are a terrible 5-30 away from their temporary digs at the Prudential Center in Brick City.
The Hawks are coming off of a pair of losses, including a 105-100 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers on Wednedsay. Atlanta lead for most of that one until they ran out of gas in the fourth quarter. For whatever reason, coach Larry Drew elected to go with a seven-man rotation in that one and gave most of his bench except for Zaza Pachulia and Jamal Crawford the night off.
That loss came on the heels of an embarrassing 114-81 annihilation at the hands of the Chicago Bulls on Tuesday. Atlanta was just simply outclassed by the Eastern Conference leaders on their own floor. The Hawks have been terribly inconsistent at Philips Arena, suffering five home losses by 20 points or more, including three by 30 or more -- both NBA records for teams with a winning record according to Stats, LLC.
Atlanta will have to neutralize Lopez and stick to the not tried enough formula of posting up inside in order to win this basketball game.