When Al Horford went down with a season-ending injury, the Atlanta Hawks needed someone to step up and fill the void. Pero Antic became that guy after coach Mike Budenholzer gave him a chance in the starting lineup earlier in the year. However, as soon as the Macedonian was getting things going with the Hawks, he suffered an injury of his own against the Orlando Magic. Antic went down with a stress fracture in his ankle that was supposed to only keep him sidelined for a few weeks.
However, it became apparent that his injury was going to take some time to heal after the 31-year old rookie had to back out of the NBA Rising Stars Challenge during the NBA All-Star weekend in New Orleans. The Hawks missed him, too. When he went down, things went south in a hurry for an Atlanta team fighting to make the playoffs. At the time of his injury, the Hawks still held on to the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference, but since then they have managed to fall all the way to the No.8 seed.
Luckily, the big man has returned for Atlanta, which means it’s time to get back to their winning ways. In three games since his return, Antic has looked great every time he takes the court. His first two games he played very limited minutes but still managed to make an impact offensively. He scored 10 points in each game and showed coach Bud that he’s ready to give this Atlanta offense a much-needed spark in order to end their current losing streak.
Against the Los Angeles Clippers last night, coach Bud decided to make Antic a starter, and it almost paid off. The Hawks didn’t manage to win the game as they fell 109-108, but with the Macedonian in the starting lineup they competed at a very high level, which is something that has been missing of late. Antic scored 16 points and grabbed six rebounds in a great effort to almost pull out a road win. His presence on the floor made a huge impact on both ends of the floor, too.
On offense, he made coach Bud’s system run a whole lot smoother. His ability to shoot the ball from outside created more spacing on the floor for his teammates, which in turn made them better as well. Especially the three-point specialists on the team, Kyle Korver and DeMarre Carroll, who found that their attempts from long range were a lot easier than in previous games. On defense, his size means a big deal as well. Teams aren’t able to attack the rim freely like they did against the Hawks while he sat out.
With Antic back, Atlanta should be able to make a run for the playoffs this season. He’s an important piece to the success of this team who makes a big impact every time he steps on to the floor for the Hawks as the starting center.