When Al Horford went down with a season-ending torn pectoral injury in the double overtime win against the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Atlanta Hawks wondered who would step up in his absence from the lineup. The All-Star center was having a great year with the Hawks averaging 18.6 points and 8.4 rebounds per game while leading the team to the No.3 seed in the East. Those numbers are hard to replace, but somebody needed to step up and fill the void. Well, I think Atlanta has found their answer in Paul Millsap.
In three games without Horford, Millsap has elevated his game to the next level in order to make up for the loss of Horford down low. In his first game against the Charlotte Bobcats, he produced an incredible 33 points and 13 rebounds guiding the Hawks to a victory in overtime. A couple of days ago in the comeback win over the Boston Celtics, Millsap’s performance powered Atlanta’s comeback by contributing 34 points and 15 rebounds in a dominating effort on the road. After two performances like that, I would say Millsap has done more than just step up with the absence of his fellow teammate; he’s taken the team and put them on his back.
Millsap means so much to the Hawks without Horford; just look at what happened to Atlanta when he struggled to carry the team. In the game against the Orlando Magic, Millsap did not necessarily have bad game with 17 points and seven rebounds. However, as you can see without Horford, he has to do more than stay around his season average of 17.9 points per game. In order for Atlanta to get the win, he has to put the team on his back and be the leading scorer every night for the Hawks. When he doesn’t, Atlanta will not win many games. Millsap needs to be the star now for Atlanta, and I think he is more than capable after witnessing him in the three games without Horford so far. Who knows if he continues to perform at this high of a level, he may earn himself a spot on the NBA All-Star team. More importantly, however, his play should lead the Hawks to the NBA Playoffs.