Hawks' path to playoffs sealed with 2 games to go in regular season

The Atlanta Hawks can now plan accordingly after having their Play-In Tournament fate decided for them on their off day.
Atlanta Hawks guards Trae Young and Bogdan Bogdanovic
Atlanta Hawks guards Trae Young and Bogdan Bogdanovic / Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

The Atlanta Hawks (36-44) were idle on Thursday, April 11. But they still had their Play-In Tournament fate sealed, at least in the first round.

By virtue of the Chicago Bulls’ win over the Detroit Pistons on the night, the Hawks got locked into the 10th seed and a road game in their Play-In opener. They won their most recent meeting against the Bulls, their first Play-In foe, in Chicago.

As likely as this outcome was, it only adds to the difficulty of getting to the actual playoffs.

The Hawks already learned they would be without both Jalen Johnson and Onyeka Okongwu through at least the first round of any playoff stint.

They are also riding a four-game skid and have their two final games on the road against playoff teams still jockeying for position. Trae Young is also still rounding back into form after playing in his first game since February 25 in the loss to the Charlotte Hornets on April 10.

That loss allowed the Bulls to clinch the No. 9 seed with their win over the Pistons.

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Hawks face tough slate to close 2023-24 regular season

First up for the Hawks are the Minnesota Timberwolves, who can still overtake the reigning champion Denver Nuggets for the top seed.

They are 4-2 in their last six games, though they lost their only meeting against the Hawks this season. The Hawks were a much healthier team then, while the Timberwolves will have Karl-Anthony Towns back in the lineup after an 18-game injury absence.

The Hawks close out the 2023-24 regular season slate against the Indiana Pacers. 

They are battling with the Orlando Magic and Philadelphia 76ers with the fifth, sixth, and seventh seeds all in the balance.

Staying out of seventh place means avoiding the Play-In Tournament for Indiana, who has won three straight and five of their last six outings. The Pacers beat the Hawks in all three of their previous meetings this season.

Their spot is locked, so losing one or even both games isn’t necessarily doom for the Hawks.

However, they surely would prefer to go into the postseason with better momentum. They are not far removed from winning six out of seven games themselves.

Knowing they won’t have either Johnson or Okongwu also allows them to plan accordingly rather than hoping they might get one or both back any time soon. Whether or not the Hawks can overcome those absences is the question.

They have managed just fine without Okongwu, thanks in large part to Bruno Fernando.

But having Johnson in the lineup has been paramount to winning for the Hawks this season, as they are 9-15 without him.