CLEVELAND — The Hawks are two losses away from the offseason. They’re also four wins away from reaching the NBA finals, and as illogical as that scenario sounds — defeating LeBron James and Cleveland in four of the next five games after losing twice at home — they’re not in surrender mode, yet.
“We don’t want to end the season like this,” DeMarre Carroll said before this morning’s shoot around. at Quicken Loans Arena. “But we’re only down 0-2. The media is going to make it bigger than it is. We’re just going to take it one game at a time and let the rest take care of itself.”
My view: I don’t believe the Hawks have much left in the tank and their inconsistency in the postseason and drop off in offense stems in part from fatigue and injuries. For a full column, click here to go to MyAJC.com. There’s some good stuff from players, including Kent Bazemore who said the team should have “put up a bigger fight” than they did in Game 2 Friday night.
Here are a few updates going into tonight’s game at Quicken Loans Arena.
• Bazemore will start for Kyle Korver, who is out for the remainder of the playoffs with a high ankle sprain. It’s not a surprise given that Bazemore and Carroll are the two primary defenders on James and Carroll isn’t at full strength.
Bazemore isn’t nearly the shooter Korver is — at least when Korver is shooting well — so the change creates potential spacing issues for the offense. But coach Mike Budenholzer said he hopes to compensate for that with “more movement, more cutting, more slashing, maybe screening, randomness. We do it with Kyle also but it becomes more imperative that we play that way.”
Bazemore said of his start: “Just go out there and play. On the road, Game 3, backs against the wall. Just let it all hang out. Go out and play some hoops.”He also didn’t back off some post-game comments when he said, “I still think we’re the better team.” His follow-up: “I believe. I believe in our season. I’m a very optimistic person. I still think we haven’t played our best basketball so we’re going to try to come out and do that.”
• Carroll is playing with a badly sprained left knee but has no intentions to pull himself out of the lineup, despite suggestions from friends that he should look out for his future with free agency coming. I’m standing here,” he said when asked about his knee. “I put myself out there to help my team, whatever it takes. I know my knee is nowhere near 100 (percent). But at the end of the day if I’m out there I’m going to give it my all and hopefully my team has my back.”
On why he’s playing: “I’ve been getting a million calls and emails about me, why am I there, this might be the biggest contract of my life. But at the end of the day this game isn’t promised to you. So whenever you’ve got an opportunity to play basketball, a lot of people say it’s bigger than money and it feels like that to me. I cherish this game and I want to be out there fighting, and if I have to fight on one leg, I’m gonna fight on one leg. I can’t let this opportunity pass me by. Eastern Conference finals, playing against LeBron James. I don’t care if I have to do it on one leg, I’ll hobble out there.”
• Jeff Teague, spreading the sunshine: “We have a good chance to do something special. We have a competitive group. … It’s fun playing basketball. It’s the Eastern Conference finals, we’re going to enjoy it. It’s an opportunity for somebody. Somebody is going to step up and have a big moment tonight.”
• Las Vegas doesn’t share the Hawks’ optimism. Cleveland is a nine-point favorite.
•Recent ramblings — MyAJC: Hawks have been running on fumes for a while — AJC: These really were the throwback Hawks — and that’s not good — MyAJC: Carroll’s clean MRI alone won’t fix Hawks’ problems — AJC: Carroll’s MRI negative, game status still uncertain — MyAJC: So many negatives won’t work in this round for Hawks — AJC: Game day: Hawks need Korver to find scoring touch — MyAJC: Is Hawks’ sum greater than one LeBron? — AJC: Odds say Cleveland, but when have odds ever said Hawks? — AJC: Hawks in conference finals — and so is Josh Smith — MyAJC: Mike Budenholzer’s leadership may continue to grow — MyAJC: Hawks finally reach East’s promised land — AJC: Short take: Pierce foiled, Teague finishes strong, Hawks move on — MyAJC: Hawks in East finals would make Atlanta top 10 — MyAJC: Hawks in one win from higher elevation — MyAJC: Hawks come through when it matters most — AJC: Short takes: Horford comes through, Teague bows out — MyAJC: Desperation shouldn’t be Hawks’ prime motivator — MyAJC: Brady, Patriots got what they deserved — AJC: Another lesson for Brady, Patriots: Don’t cheat, don’t lie — MyAJC: Jalen Collins determined to make Falcons’ pick look good — AJC: Wall’s injury shifts odds in Hawks’ favor for game, series — MyAJC: Braves’ McDowell trying to repair some damaged egos