With so many injuries to key players such as Paul Millsap, Pero Antic, Gustavo Ayon and Al Horford, Atlanta has found that winning games is tough in the NBA without their big men down low — and it’s starting to show in the win-loss column. In their last 11 games without all four or at least three of these players, the Hawks have managed to win only one game against the New York Knicks.
Under coach Mike Budenholzer, the team gives it their all every time they take the floor. However, in the end, the absence of key low-post players is holding them back from getting the job done. With a smaller lineup that consists of Elton Brand at the center position and Mike Scott or DeMarre Carroll at the power forward spot, it’s hard to win many games. Brand is having a great year with Atlanta, but at 6-foot-9 he’s not the intimidating force opposing teams fear.
Due to his smaller stature, opposing teams know that at 34-years old it’s hard for the veteran to play extended minutes and continue his high level of play. For example, in the loss last night, Brand finished with seven rebounds and five blocks, but most of these came earlier in the contest. As the game wore on, Boston continued to attack him down low and crash the glass because the Celtics knew that eventually Brand and the undersized Hawks would wear out defensively.
They were right, too. With Scott and Carroll playing alongside the veteran at the power forward position, the Hawks had no answer for Boston’s game plan. The undersized forwards were worked down low as players such as Gerald Wallace, Jeff Green and Brandon Bass were able to take full advantage of the size mismatch. All three went for over 10 points each and also finished with at least eight rebounds to help guide the Celtics to a win.
As the season goes on, the big men for the Hawks have to get healthy. So far, coach Bud’s decision to use a smaller lineup is not working, and it’s about time he gets some of his best players back because Atlanta could certainly use the likes of Antic and Millsap right now. Both provide the Hawks with not only great offensive production but will make an immediate impact on defense, and that’s something Atlanta needs badly at the moment.