This downshift to the postseason isn’t going well. The Atlanta Hawks have seen two starters injured (Paul Millsap, Kyle Korver), two subs hurt their feet (Mike Scott, Dennis Schroder) and two other subs (Thabo Sefolosha, Pero Antic) arrested in NYC.
Note: The arrest was at 4 a.m. Wednesday after the Hawks had played Tuesday at Philips Arena and were scheduled to play Wednesday in Brooklyn. I know New York is the city that never sleeps, but …
Through February, the Hawks had been the team with few distractions. (If you don’t count the part about the franchise being sold, or the part about the general manager on indefinite leave.) They’ve since become the team making the sort of ruckus no No. 1 seed wants.
Positioning-wise, they’ve done what they needed to do: They won’t play Cleveland until the Eastern Conference finals, and they might well miss Chicago in Round 2. Round 1 should be easy: They’ll face the Nets, the Celtics, the Pacers or the Heat — a foursome that has managed to beat the Hawks a grand total of once this season.
Still, they’ve lost 10th man Sefolosha — his leg was broken while being arrested, which would seem the definition of adding injury to insult — for the duration. Antic is the first big man off the bench. The second unit, which had become a smooth-running entity, is in flux. Scott and Schroder have just returned, and now Sefolosha is gone again. And this is to say nothing of Millsap, on whom so much depends.
The Hawks are still really good — they just won consecutive home games by an aggregate 59 points — but the cold truth is that they haven’t been quite as good as they were a while back. Then again, they didn’t need to be great in March and April. They’d already done the heavy lifting.
Until the playoffs actually commence, it’s impossible to know if this turbulence means anything. Good teams don’t become bad because they lose their 10th man. (As we know, benches shorten in postseason.) But I’m pretty sure a 4 a.m. arrest between back-to-back games wasn’t what Mike Budenholzer had in mind when he set out to rest guys.