Vivlamore reporting from Philips Arena.
The Hawks will be without Al Horford for at least the first round of the playoffs. This we know. It’s looking more like they could be without Zaza Pachulia. That’s the All-Star center and his backup not in the lineup versus the Celtics.
Horford, rehabbing from a torn left pectoral muscle, said he isn’t ready from a physical standpoint.
Pachulia, who will miss his seventh straight game with a sprained left foot, was wearing a walking boot when he left Philips Arena following shoot-around this morning. That’s something that he hasn’t been wearing the times I’ve seen him since suffering the injury against the Magic. Coach Larry Drew continues to term Pachulia as day-to-day. He is scheduled to be re-examined this weekend. The Hawks open the playoffs on Sunday.
I wanted to get a better idea of how the Hawks offense with differ without the two big men.
Drew made it clear this morning that it won’t be the first time they have played short-handed in such a way.
“We’ve been without both guys before,” Drew said. “We’ll just have to go out and play solid basketball, number one, and number two we’ll have to be prepared to make some adjustments. Not having your starting center and your backup center throws a monkey wrench into things but you have to keep moving forward. We hope and wish that we could have had a full squad this season, and at this point in the season, with injury being part of the game. You can’t sit around and mope about it. You have to keep moving forward and that’s what we plan to do.”
From a technical standpoint, the Hawks have been without one of their man scoring options without Horford. That has put more pressure on Joe Johnson, Josh Smith and Jeff Teague.
“One thing I have tried to exploit, at least since I’ve been here, is putting [Horford] in more pick-and-pop situations,” Drew said. “I think he is one of the better pick-and-pop big men in our league. I’ve really tried to put him in more situations like that.”
While Pachulia wasn’t a primary scoring option, he knew when and how to get his points. It is his defense and rebounded that will be missed.
Without the two centers, the balance of scoring shifts according to Willie Green. That is why the Hawks’ deep bench has been such an asset this season.
“When you have Al, when you have Zaza, when you have those guys implementing your offense you are going to have a few guys dominate more – you are going to have Al, Joe and Josh. It’s going to take some shots away from other guys.
“Without those guys, you have to have substitution guys step up. It also creates a bigger role for Josh, creates a bigger role for Teague, creates a bigger role for Joe. Those three guys we are really leaning on to carry us in the starting lineup. The substitution guys can come in, get points, get some steals, create some ruckus on both ends of the floor. It’s a balance situation when you have guys in and guys out. You try to pick up the slack where you can.”