Josh (knee) is out. The starters are Hinrich, J.J., Marvin, Al and Twin.
Josh said he’s not sure how long he will sit but I’m thinking it could be more than one game if the Hawks clinch the five seed.
“We are just trying to get as much of the swelling out of it as we can and get it as strong as I can before the playoffs,” Josh said.
Keeping him out tonight appears to be the first lineup decision L.D. made with the long view in mind.
“With five games to go we want to try to get guys as healthy as we can going into the playoffs,” L.D. said. “I don’t think it’s a situation of if he really needed to play tonight, if this were the playoffs, he would probably play. But we have got to let the knee settle down and get him as healthy as we can going into the playoffs.”
The Hawks haven’t been nearly good or consistent enough to simply wind it down once they lock up the fifth seed. L.D. is playing the same health/rest/momentum balancing act as the Spurs and Magic, who also have had hiccups down the stretch.
In Orlando, Dwight keeps saying players need for rest while Stan Van Gundy keeps saying the Magic cant’ think they can flip the switch. His point is that the Celtics, Lakers or Spurs can credibly take that approach because they have the credentials the Magic lack.
But the Spurs aren’t talking about winding it down despite owning the league’s best record–and not only because the Lakers are creeping up from behind in the standings. It’s a message L.D. wanted Hawks players to see so at shootaround today there was a printed copy of this blog post on their chairs with these passages highlighted:
More than simply holding onto the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference, the Spurs hope to use their final five games, beginning tonight in Atlanta, to establish momentum heading into the playoffs.
“We’re just going to play out the season, and whatever happens happens,” Duncan said. “We want to start playing like we want to play. That’s what matters.” . . .
Though home-court advantage seems like an attractive carrot, winning for winning’s sake should be enough to drive the Spurs. They are 9-9 since the start of March, with six losses coming during the historic skid that began after Duncan went down with a sprained left ankle March 21.
“You don’t want to go into the playoffs losing,” guard George Hill said. “You want to go in with a happy mind.”
L.D. said losing leaves a “bad taste” under any circumstance and, in any event, he admits he’s still not sure what he will get from the Hawks each night.
“I’m not,” he said. “It’s not about making shots. It’s that consistent what I call a ‘blue-collar effort’ every night because that’s the kind of team we have to be. We can’t win pretty. We have to win ugly. We have to win grind-em-out games. We have to learn to win games where we may not have it offensively. We have to win games where sometimes our defense won’t be up to par.
“I wish I could say at this stage of the season I could say I knew what I was going to get night in and night out but at this stage we have been too inconsistent. What I am hoping for these last two five basketball games we can gain some momentum going down the stretch.”
It might be tough to do that with the regulars sitting out or making cameo appearances. Then again, that may not matter much if the Hawks have tired or sore bodies for the playoffs.
No question which way Smoove is leaning: “When we find out our destiny, I think a lot of guys who’ve played a lot of minutes will get some rest.”
Michael Cunningham, Hawks beat