The Atlanta Hawks (17-16 overall) were left off the NBA’s Christmas Day matchup list which means the team had more time to rest before a big week of Eastern Conference games against the Indiana Pacers (17-16) and Brooklyn Nets (21-12, winners of 9 of last 10). Winners of three of their last four games, Atlanta plays an Indiana Pacers team that’s playing much better lately. Hawks All-Star guard Trae Young knows the game against the Pacers Tuesday will consist of a lot of running. “They are playing really well right now,” said Young after practice Monday afternoon. “We just have to be ready to go up and down the floor.”
Head coach Nate McMillan believes January is an important point of the season for teams to be jelled and ready for the stretch run. The injuries are a part of the “race,” he said to The Atlanta Voice after practice today. “This is where we are,” McMillan said. “It’s been a tough two and a half months, but we’re still in the race and we have a lot of race left.”
Atlanta and Indiana are a half-game behind the New York Knicks (18-16) and a game ahead of the Miami Heat (16-17). “I’m praying that we can get healthy and we can build that rhythm and start to play good basketball,” McMillan said.
The Hawks have rarely had full use of the entire roster this season due to injuries. Young, (27.5 points, 9.9 assists in 35.6 minutes per game) who has played in 30 of the team’s 33 games this season, has been one of the healthier players and understands that this is just part of the marathon that is an NBA season. “Going through injuries and stuff, that’s something you can’t control,” he said. “It sucks not having those guys on the floor with us.”
Starters Dejounte Murray, John Collins and Clint Capela have all missed significant time this year. Reserve guard Bogdan Bogdanovic recently returned to the team as well.
Indiana plays at New Orleans tonight before heading home to host the Hawks. That might be to Atlanta’s advantage. The Hawks haven’t played a game since Friday, December 23, a 130-105 victory over Detroit.
The remainder of the week will have Atlanta back at home to host the Nets Wednesday and the Los Angeles Lakers Friday night. Both games are scheduled for 7:30 p.m. tipoffs.