The Atlanta Hawks are gripping as tightly as possible to the eight-seed in the Western Conference, desperately trying to stay alive for the 2014 NBA Playoffs with 13 games remaining in the regular season. Considering the injuries this team has had to deal with though, it’s remarkable that they’re still in the hunt at all.
Obviously this team has been without star center Al Horford for quite a while now after he tore his pectoral muscle earlier in the year. The bad luck didn’t stop there, though, as the majority of what was supposed to be a wildly deep frontcourt coming into the year has been slowed by injuries throughout to almost every player that comprises it. Moreover, this team was without talented sixth man Lou Williams to start the season and, after his mid-November return, still had to wait on him to get in a groove in coming back from a torn ACL.
Williams has been inconsistent in terms of his production this season, never really getting into that groove. He’s shown flashes of being the perennial NBA Sixth Man of the Year candidate that he once was, but his overall averages of 9.9 points, 3.4 assists and 1.9 rebounds per game on just 38.5 percent shooting are hardly inspiring.
However, Williams showed life in the Hawks’ loss to the Phoenix Suns on Monday night. In 28 minutes, the reserve guard put up 17 points and four rebound while shooting 5-8 from the floor, 2-3 from three, and getting to the foul line seven times as well (making five). Though it was a losing effort, the contest proved how valuable Williams can be down the stretch.
For a team largely depleted by injuries and that depends on several relatively inexperienced role players to contribute at times, having a veteran presence like Williams come off the bench and produce could be enormous for them holding onto their playoff-position. If he fails to step up, though, there’s still a chance the Hawks could falter and ultimately miss out on the postseason.