J.J. practiced today and said he “definitely” will play against the Magic after missing a game with a sprained right thumb.
“A little sore but it will be all right,” he said. “I have had a couple days to rest so I am sure it will be ready to go.”
Joe said he would probably wear some kind of protective device on the thumb. He said he was able to shoot the ball without problems while participating in the full session.
“He was actually pretty good,” L.D. said. “I asked him how the thumb was and he said it was much better than a couple days ago. That’s good to hear. I thought he shot the ball pretty good today.”
Smoove missed the final portion of practice to get treatment on his sore right knee. He’s not listed on the injury report.
If Joe returns to the lineup and if Jameer Nelson (knee) is able to play, it would be the first Hawks-Magic this season in which both teams had all their regular starters available.
Nelson sat out the Magic’s 93-89 victory on Nov. 8 at Amway Center. J.J. and Nelson sat out the Dec. 6 rematch in Orlando won 80-74 by the Hawks (a game in which several Orlando players were getting over a virus). The Magic had just added Turkoglu and J-Rich to the lineup when they lost 91-81 on Dec. 20 at Philips.
As Chicago, Boston, Miami fight it out for the top three spots in the East and Philly and New York meander at six and seven, it looks like the Hawks and Magic will tangle in the first round of the playoffs. John Hollinger’s latest playoff odds projections have it that way.
“It’s highly probable they will be our first-round opponents in the playoffs and I am sure they are looking at it the same way,” L.D. said. “They’ve always been a tough team for us to play, going back to what they did to us last year. So the energy is going to be there, the energy and the intensity. I think there will be a sense of urgency on both team’s parts to establish themselves.”
L.D. said he probably would again use the Twin lineup again Orlando. With Gortat gone the Magic now are forced to play small with Brandon Bass or Ryan Anderson at center when Dwight goes to the bench. That lack of front court size, in addition to Hinrich now checking Jameer instead of Bibby, theoretically makes Orlando a more favorable matchup for the Hawks.
Of course the Hawks can’t think about match ups when they have yet to prove their worth against the league’s best. Getting a W tomorrow would be a good start.
“We feel confident going up against any team,” J.J. said. “But I think we understand the significance of this game and the psychology of it, as far as this is more than likely be our first-round opponent. This is definitely a statement game, a game that we really need to come out and take seriously. We can go up 3-1 and have the mental edge on them as well. It’s definitely important.”
Michael Cunningham, Hawks beat