The Atlanta Hawks are about to embark on a grueling five-game Western Conference road trip that will take place over an eight-day span and include matchups against four teams currently projected to make the playoffs.
The Hawks’ road trip will officially commence tonight (March 2nd) in Phoenix, followed by games in Portland (March 5th), Golden State (March 7th), Los Angeles [Clippers] (March 8th) and Utah (March 10th).
This season-defining road stretch will pit the Hawks against the very best the Western Conference has to offer. It is not coming at a very opportune time for the reeling Hawks, who have lost 10 of 11 games heading into Sunday’s matchup against the Suns. Injuries are much to blame for the alarming skid.
Paul Millsap has already been ruled out for Sunday’s game in Phoenix and is still without a set timetable to return after suffering a right knee contusion last week against the Detroit Pistons. He is currently listed as day-to-day by the Hawks medical staff, but is traveling with the team and is expected to make a return at some point during this road trip. Millsap has appeared in 53 games this season and is averaging 17.6 points and 8.3 rebounds per game.
Elton Brand has been forced into a starting role, and over the Hawks’ past four games is playing well, posting averages of 6.3 points, 8.8 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 3.0 blocks per game.
Jeff Teague has also really stepped up his game in Millsap’s absence with 24.0 points, 2.5 rebounds, and 5 assists per game over those four games.
Atlanta received good news that Pero Antic, who hasn’t played since January 22nd, will also likely make his return to the court at some point during this five-game road trip. He was a limited participant in Friday’s practice and the team has updated his status as “day-to-day” with a stress fracture in his right ankle. The Hawks desperately need him back, as they have been giving up tremendous production to opposing big men since he has been out.
If the Hawks are able to survive this brutal stretch and come out with two, or even three wins, there might still be hope for the season. However, Atlanta is quickly losing the once-firm grip it had over a playoff spot in the East.
As it stands, the Hawks are currently in 8th place with a four-game cushion over Cleveland and Detroit. If the Hawks get buried on this road trip, there is a good chance they will be caught and passed by one of these teams.