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Cavs Vs. Hawks: Atlanta Looks To Beat Lowly Cavs Without Joe Johnson

Moments after the Atlanta Hawks clinched a playoff spot by dispatching the lowly New Jersey Nets, the team headed for the airport without an injured Joe Johnson. But much like their quest to finally nab their fourth straight playoff spot, they were delayed.

Weather in the Atlanta area was terrible. The team's charter didn't make it into Cleveland until around 1:30 a.m. Couple that with some other logistical issues and some Hawks officials didn't make it into their beds until the wee hours of the morning.

Nevertheless, they're going to have to be ready to go shorthanded against the Cleveland Cavaliers (6:00 p.m, SportSouth, 97.9 FM).

The Hawks will be without All-Star guard Johnson, who was resting in his bed on Saturday night after spraining his right thumb in the third quarter of Atlanta's 98-87 win over the New Jersey Nets. Johnson is having trouble catching the basketball and has been shut down, at  least, for now as Atlanta has little to play for but hanging onto the No. 5 spot in the East.

It's better to have a healthy Johnson when the Hawks likely take on the Orlando Magic in the first round of the playoffs. Plus, well, the Hawks are playing one of the worst teams in the NBA. Do they really need Johnson for this one?

The Hawks have handled the Cavs this year, winning both games this season by double-digit margins.

But ever since LeBron James infamously "took his services to South Beach," Cleveland (14-57) has struggled just about everywhere. They lost seven straight at home before ending the streak against the Detroit Pistons with a 97-91 win and are just 6-12 since their NBA record 26 game losing streak.

Baron Davis should play in this one against the Hawks. The former Los Angeles Clippers point guard has appeared in just five games since a trade sent him to Ohio due to a knee injury and the death of his grandmother.

Tired or not, playing shorthanded or not, this is a game that the Hawks should be able to win and win handily. Of course, they're going to have to play within themselves and not down to the level of their opponents in order to do it.

Photographs by coka_koehler used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.