Hawks Could Sink Out of Playoff Chase with Lou Williams Done
Yes, the Atlanta Hawks beat the Minnesota Timberwolves 104-96 in a matinee on Monday's holiday. However Atlanta should have won that game as the Timberwolves played without star Kevin Love along with underrated center Nikola Pekovic and solid rookie point guard Alexey Shved due to injuries. Plus Minnesota is one of the NBA's worst road teams at 6-15.
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However, the long-term prognosis doesn't appear promising for Atlanta after the loss of guard Lou Williams to a season-ending torn ACL suffered in Friday's loss at Brooklyn. The team was hoping Williams' injury was just a sprain and an X-ray Friday didn't show anything. An MRI on Saturday showed the tear.
Williams was a great offseason signing for new Hawks GM Danny Ferry. The Atlanta native was second in the Sixth Man of the Year voting a season ago with Philadelphia and ranked third on the Hawks in scoring (14.1), assists (3.6) and steals (1.1). He was shooting a career-best 36.7% from three-point range and 86.8% from the free-throw line in 28.7 minutes per game. Williams averaged nearly half of the Hawks' bench points and led them in made free throws. Atlanta averaged 102.1 points per 100 possessions with Williams on the floor and 99.9 with him on the bench. Rookie John Jenkins will see more minutes with Williams out. Jenkins is 3-for-15 from the field in the two games Williams has missed and was scoreless on Monday.
Even with Monday's victory, Atlanta has just three wins in its past 11 games (3-7-1 ATS) and is sixth in the Eastern Conference. Any realistic chance of winning a round or two in the playoffs likely vanished with Williams' injury. Ferry did a brilliant job of clearing cap space this past offseason by shipping Marvin Williams to Utah and Joe Johnson to Brooklyn.
The Williams injury could be the final push for Ferry to trade talented but inconsistent and immature forward Josh Smith to further the team's rebuilding plan. The Hawks are hoping to lure Atlanta native Dwight Howard back to the South this summer. Howard can become a free agent and certainly doesn't appear happy in Laker purple and gold yet. Clippers star point guard Chris Paul also is from the Southeast and Atlanta would have room for two maximum contracts. Most expect Paul to stay in L.A.
As for the immediate future, Atlanta looks set for at least a .500 week. The Hawks visit Charlotte on Wednesday and are 3-0 against the Hornets in 2012-13, with two wins by double-digits. Boston visits Atlanta on Friday and the C's won there 89-81 on January 5. The Hawks close the week visiting the Knicks in the teams' first meeting of the season.
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