The Atlanta Hawks are a bit of a mess at the moment.
The team has lost five consecutive games thanks to a combination of injury woe and lackluster play, and with the status of Kyle Korver and Pero Antic very much in the air, Mike Budenholzer may be forced to attempt a patchwork attack in this one. Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution indicates that Antic (ankle sprain) did travel to Washington, but Korver has remained in Atlanta to this point, although he hasn't officially been ruled out.
Without two starting-caliber players, it looks as if the Hawks will be shorthanded again, and that means trouble against the playoff-bound Wizards. Washington hasn't played particularly well in recent days, falling all the way to the 6th spot in the Eastern Conference standings, but they are a talented bunch led by point guard John Wall. Wall is a nightmare match-up for Jeff Teague and the Atlanta backcourt because of his shear physicality and athleticism, and he'll be the player that Budenholzer is game-planning against defensively.
Up front, the combination of Elton Brand and Mike Muscala (should Antic fail to play) will have their hands full with 7-footer Marcin Gortat. There is nothing fancy about Gortat's game, but he has been productive to the tune 13 points and 9 rebounds per game this season, and he is a tough match-up from a size standpoint. Behind him, the Wizards have considerable depth (something that Atlanta is lacking), and while it may not be exceedingly talented depth, there are bodies upon bodies available for Randy Wittman's club.
After the New York Knicks fell to the Phoenix Suns on Friday night, the Hawks hold a 2-game lead for the 8th spot in the East, and while there are numerous excuses regarding personnel and schedule, the team flat-out needs a win in the worst way. There is certainly a contingent of the fan base openly rooting for a lottery berth, but with guys like Elton Brand vocal about their playoff plans, it is a safe bet that the team itself isn't entertaining any sort of "shut down". Stay tuned.
Game Date/Time: Saturday, March 29, 7:30 p.m.
Location: Verizon Center, Washington, DC
Radio: 92.9 "The Game" FM