Goodbye Regular Season, Hello Playoffs
4/15/2014, 9:20 a.m.
3…2…1...Chris Douglas-Roberts of the Charlotte Bobcats shoots a floater, as time expires and swish it goes in.
Last home game of the season didn’t go as planned, as the Bobcats (42-39) defeated the Atlanta Hawks (37-44) 95-93.
Resting many of their starters, Hawks' role player Mike Scott led the way with 23 points. On the other end, the Bobcats' Al Jefferson posted a double-double with 27 points and 15 rebounds.
“Through three quarters, they had 65 points." Hawks' Coach Mike Budenholzer said. "The ball movement, the people movement – the things we’ve been talking about all year through a lot of the games were good. There are areas in the fourth quarter we can all look at and address and improve."
This matchup had the makings of a playoff game with the atmosphere too. Showtime dunks by Gerald Henderson and Cody Zeller, a four-point play by Cartier Martin gave you a taste of what the postseason will be like.
The Hawks were looking good on the defensive end in the first half, by doubling Jefferson, and on the offensive end by limiting turnovers and making free throws. The Bobcats shot awful from the line, a mediocre 61 percent, whereas the Hawks shot 74 percent, capitalizing from the charity stripe.
The Hawks were well on their way to winning the game with a 15-point cushion going into the final quarter, but the Bobcats outscored the Hawks in the fourth 30-13. Going under screens or sagging off Luke Ridnour and Gary Neal proved to be a major problem. Scoring 20 of 30 total points in the fourth, Ridnour and Neal led the comeback that eventually resulted in a win for the Bobcats.
“It felt like we let it slip away but guys gained experience, so that’s important for us too,” Elton Brand said, in regards to the Hawks' 4th quarter slump.
Losing this game has no playoff implications for the Hawks, but the Bobcats improved their playoffs seeding from seventh to sixth (i.e. from facing Miami to Chicago).
This game showed how productive the Atlanta Hawks bench really is heading into the playoffs. Inspiring play from Scott and Brand almost resulted in two double-doubles. Scott racked up 20 points 6 rebounds and Brand had 12 points 7 rebounds.
“It’s been a long season," Hawks sharpshooter Lou Williams said. "It worked on both sides for guys to get some minutes and get an opportunity to get up and down the court, and keep some things sharp. At the same time, a lot of other guys can start preparing for the playoffs.”
Al Jefferson, the man who molded Hawks' All-Star Paul Millsap, was a man among boys. Jefferson’s 27 points and 15 rebounds led the charge for the Bobcats.. His offensive arsenal was lethal with four or five pump fakes, spins, hook shots, and the ability to put the ball on the court made it tough for the opposing defenders.
“With a presence like Al on the court, it creates open looks, which makes it easier for our team to get quality shots,” Bobcat’s forward Josh McRoberts said. “This helped our shooters like Ridnour and Neal to get a lot of open looks in the fourth, and eventually Douglas-Roberts game-winner."
Losing is not a way you want to end your last home game but the Hawks are in the playoffs for the seventh consecutive season, as they thanked their fans for all their support. There was a signing of jerseys at the end of the game and a video tribute on the Jumbotron for the fans.
Hawks fan support will be key, as they face the Eastern Conference's top-seed Indiana Pacers (55-26) in the opening round of the playoffs. They split their season series with the Pacers (2-2), but the playoffs are a whole different monster. And no one knows that better than former San Antonio Spurs' assistant, now current Hawks' Coach Budenholzer.
His coaching and his players execution will be under a microscope come this weekend. Until that time, the team has a brief moment to soak up their accomplishment, after a unforgiven season riddled with injuries.
“I’d like to thank all the fans," fan-favorite and elder statesman Brand said. "We play hard for this city, for the ATL, for them, so we appreciate all the support."