The Atlanta Hawks are no strangers to the NBA postseason, as the team has clinched a playoff berth for six consecutive seasons. They have a chance to extend that streak this year, but they are in a tight race with the New York Knicks for the final playoff spot in the NBA’s Eastern Conference.
With a record of 33-42, the Atlanta Hawks currently lead the New York Knicks by one game for the final playoff position in the East. While the Hawks hold a slight edge over the Knicks, they have been slumping lately and have only won 3 of their last 10 games. Despite this recent slide, Atlanta is still in charge of their own destiny.
Like many teams in the NBA, Atlanta has had to deal with injuries to key players this season. All-Star center Al Horford has played just 29 games this season, after suffering a pectoral injury in December. Prior to his injury, Horford was leading the team in scoring at 18.6 points per game, while shooting 56.7 percent from the field.
In the absence of Horford, newly acquired power forward Paul Millsap has played huge minutes for the Hawks and helped keep their playoff hopes alive. Millsap has played in 69 games for Hawks this year, and is averaging 17.9 points per game on 45.8 percent shooting from the field.
Another reason for the Hawks playoff push this season has been the play of their floor general, Jeff Teague. Teague has played and started in 72 games for the Hawks this season and is the teams third leading scorer, at 16.3 points per game. Teague is also leading the team with 6.9 assists per game.
If the Hawks are to advance to their seventh consecutive postseason, they will need to put together a solid record in their final 7 games in the regular season.
Player to Watch in the Playoffs
With Al Horford sidelined for the remainder of the season, the Hawks will need a full team effort to make some noise in the playoffs. They will need a consistent scoring threat to go alongside Paul Millsap and Jeff Teague. Atlanta will be looking for Kyle Korver to come up big for them in the playoffs.
Korver is no stranger to the playoffs, as he has played in the postseason with four different teams, the Philadelphia 76ers, Utah Jazz, Chicago Bulls, and Atlanta Hawks. Korver is a three-point specialist and has put together another season that has showcased that talent.
Korver is averaging 12.2 points per game for the Hawks, while leading the league in three-point percentage at 48.1 percent. Korver set an NBA record this season with 127 consecutive games with a made three-pointer. Korver will need to continue shooting at his torrid pace if the Hawks want to make a run in the playoffs this year.
How Will Their Season End
If the Hawks do manage to hold off the New York Knicks and claim the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, they would be rewarded with a first round series against the defending champion Miami Heat. Although the Hawks have done well to recover from injuries this season, without Al Horford it would be unlikely that the Hawks would upset the Heat in the first round.
Expect Atlanta to take a game off of the Heat in their series, but eventually fall to the defending champs in the opening round of the NBA playoffs. But who knows in this year’s NBA, it has been a wild ride this year, as the Hawks are nearly 10 games below .500 and still looking at a playoff spot. If the postseason proves to be anything like the regular season this year, expect a wave of upsets in the opening round of the playoffs this year.
NBA Daily is a daily series providing commentary, predictions, and analysis of events surrounding the NBA.
Commentary By Eric Kummel