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Dwight Howard set to miss third consecutive game with back injury, per report

The Hawks will reportedly be without Dwight Howard again on Friday. Time to panic?

NBA: Atlanta Hawks at Phoenix Suns Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Well, this isn’t good.

The Atlanta Hawks have played largely competent basketball without Dwight Howard in the lineup this season, posting a 2-1 mark in his absence. However, the team relies heavily upon its starting center on the glass and in rim protection and, for the third consecutive game, Howard will reportedly be unavailable on Friday against the Denver Nuggets.

It was announced prior to the past two games that Howard would not play due to “back tightness”, and this is a troubling trend. The veteran center has a history of issues with his back, including a surgery in 2012 that produced a long recovery timetable.

This season, Howard has performed quite well individually, averaging 14.2 points, 13.0 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game while leading the NBA in both offensive rebounding rate and total rebounding rate. With a third straight absence, this likely moves into the according of “legitimate concern” instead of simply a passing hiccup, and it will be interesting to see how Howard is treated moving forward.

As for the game against Denver, the Nuggets possess a stockpile of frontcourt assets, headlined by Nikola Jokic. With that in mind, the Hawks could attempt a small-ball lineup, but in light of the failures of that unit against the Wolves, Mike Muscala, Mike Scott or even Kris Humphries could be in line for more minutes on Friday.

Stay tuned.