Just when the struggling Atlanta Hawks thought they could catch a break, their opponent’s All-Star/best player returns from a seven game absence, as LaMarcus Aldridge will play tonight for the visiting Portland Trail Blazers.
Aldridge has been out the past two weeks due to a lower back contusion but is returning — perhaps a bit too soon — because of the Blazers’ recent skid which has their playoff status in question.
“We’ve got 10 games left,” Aldridge told Mike Tokito from the Oregonian. “The way we are in the standings now makes me want to come back faster and want to get things back on track. That has a part in it. But again, we’ve tried to treat my back any way possible, and now it’s time to see how it is.”
Portland has lost 8 of their last 11 games and currently sits in fifth place in the tough Western Conference, nursing a two-game lead over Phoenix and Dallas who are fighting for the eighth and final playoff spot.
Atlanta, on the other hand, is on a four-game losing streak and has a slim two-game lead over New York for the eighth and final playoff spot in the East.
The Hawks are also dealing with injuries, as starting shooting guard Kyle Korver has missed the past four games due to back spasms, while interim center Pero Antic sprained his ankle in last night’s loss at Minnesota.
Korver’s status for tonight’s game against the Blazers is unknown. However, personal speculation would suggest he is doubtful. Antic’s status is also unknown, however he continued to play after reportedly suffering the sprained ankle. Personal speculation here would suggest Antic’s status is a lot better than Korver’s outlook.
Shelvin Mack started in place of Korver during the first three games of his absence but coach Mike Budenholzer shook things up last night and slid DeMarre Carroll down from SF to SG and gave Mike Scott the start at small forward. Scott made the most of the opportunity and scored a team-high 15 points, however the end result was the same as the other three losses.
This is the second-and-final meeting of the season between the Hawks and Trail Blazers. Portland won the first meeting on their turf 102-78 on March 5. That game was the game in which Korver’s NBA record 3-point streak came to and end at 127 straight games.
It would be so sweet for Atlanta to avenge that loss on their turf in Philips Arena tonight in the series finale.
With any luck, both Antic and Korver will play for Atlanta — but we all know they’re not that lucky.