Just when it looked like the Atlanta Hawks were about to be grounded by the premature end of center Al Horford’s season, a duo of players decided to get off the bench and start flying high for the current No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference. Veteran big man Elton Brand and 31-year-old European rookie Pero Antic have stepped up their respective games in the absence of Horford, especially through the last two games as the Hawks have managed to secure back-to-back impressive victories over the Indiana Pacers and Houston Rockets.
Brand really requires no introduction to basketball fans. A two-time All-Star and 1999-00 Rookie of the Year, he is in the 15th season of a fantastic NBA career. With that amount of miles on his legs, it should come as no surprise that the Duke University legend is no longer the player of past years. However, as of late, Brand is proving he still has something left in the tank. Over the last three games, he has averaged more than 24 minutes en route to producing 6.0 points, 7.3 rebounds and 2.3 blocks.
Sharing the action in the post while also stretching the floor for the Hawks, Antic has soared to new heights and has been a big part of the team, posting a 4-4 record since Horford went down. During that eight game stretch, the 6-foot-11 native of Macedonia has posted marks of 8.3 points and 4.8 boards. In addition, he has scored a career-high 16 points on two different occasions and knocked down a very impressive 15-of-36 three-point attempts.
As the mid-season trade deadline approaches, GM Danny Ferry will certainly be exploring all viable options to add depth at the position. Though for the time being, the combo of Brand and Antic are admirably holding down the fort. They will need to continue to do so if the Hawks are to claim their third consecutive victory on Sunday evening. Point guard Mike Conley and the Memphis Grizzlies will not be an easy out.