You all know the deal. No Excuses Weekend comes to a close!
After flubbing the final quarter in Chicago, our Atlanta Hawks have little time for solace. They’ve got another tipoff this evening, in Brooklyn against Kenny Atkinson’s Nets (6:00 PM Eastern, Fox Sports Southeast and 92.9 FM in ATL, YES Network in NYC).
It’s still not Must-Win territory yet, but this is definitely a You-Betta-Win game for the Hawks (39-37), who remain strident of the sense that a decade’s worth of sustained first-round playoff revenue would eclipse any benefits a lower-lottery prospect might bring. Having mailed in their you-betta-win versus these same Nets last Sunday, a 107-92 flop at home, is No Excuse for taking care of business today on the road.
Atlanta, somehow, still has a two-game cushion on the 7th through 9th seeds, but their final five contests are less of a picnic than for any of the remaining teams clinging to postseason hopes.
Separated by just a half-game as of this morning, future Hawk foes Boston (Thursday) and Cleveland (Friday and next Sunday) can’t afford to rest anybody if they have designs on the #1 seed. Charlotte and Indiana are on the outside of the playoff party, looking in, if the season ended today. Much like the Bulls, those teams will be of the mindset that sneaking back in serves no purpose if you can’t even beat the Hawks right now.
Your team’s playoff issues are of no concern to the Nets (17-59), who shifted to full-time spoiler mode somewhere around the turn of the calendar year. They have split their last twelve games, and five of their last eight victories since March 1 have been by double-digits. They’re aiming at their first sweep of wins on back-to-back days since April 1, 2014, when Brook Lopez turned 27 years young.
At Barclays Center yesterday, Brooklyn’s offense pummeled Orlando along the way to a 121-111 victory. Giving everyone opportunities to impress on the floor, Atkinson is drowning opponents with depth. Besides Lopez’s 30 points on his birthday, three backup Nets scored in double-figures, including forward Trevor Booker’s season high 23 points (11-for-12 FGs). Nine of 11 Net players contributed at least two rebounds, and nine of 11 dished out at least one assist.
That’s a team effort that will need to be at least matched today by the Hawks, who finally got a modicum of assistance from their bench crew but still shot just 7-for-19 from the field (6-for-12 3FGs) and never got to the free throw line a single time in the 106-104 loss to the Bulls.
It would have been pleasant to have the option of resting Paul Millsap (knee) a little more, ahead of the arduous close to the season. Alas, the team’s active leader in scoring, steals (assuming Thabo Sefolosha remains out), and free throws per game must be pressed into action right away if he can be cleared.
Even if Sap is a no-go, it’s No Excuse. Atlanta produced just 16 assists and its players turned over the ball 20 times during last Sunday’s matinee mugging at the hands of the Nets. Yesterday, the Hawks’ 25 assists (13 turnovers) kept them in the running for a road win right up to the buzzer, and they’ll need that enhanced ball control to cool off the Nets today.
There’s not much more to say, other than… No Excuses!
Let’s Go Hawks!