“What’s that? Ah — Playoffs? Don’t talk about — playoffs? You kidding me? Playoffs? I just hope we can win a game!” Jim Mora would probably lose his mind at this headline about a team that is much closer to the worst record in the league than they are the 8th seed in the East. But with the Hawks starting to find their form, the new additions of Dewayne Dedmon and Clint Capela, and most importantly, a healthy roster, optimistic fans viewed Monday’s game against the Magic as a chance to get back into the playoff race.
Atlanta began the week 6.5 games back of Orlando after Sunday’s 2 OT win over the Knicks, but could not continue that momentum on the second night of their back-to-back, which undoubtedly affected the Hawks starters, who were all outscored by the Magic.
Trae Young led Atlanta with 29 points and 9 assists. Although he did shoot particularly well from the field, just 7-19 on the night, but he was 12-13 from the free-throw line. John Collins finished with 22 points and 8 rebounds but had a team-worst plus/minus of -32. The rest of the starters combined for 26 points. But despite their lackluster effort, Atlanta’s bench kept them in it until the very end.
Dedmon continues to show why Travis Schlenk made a move to bring him back. The guys love playing with him, and he’s been rejuvenated since returning to Atlanta. On Sunday, Dedmon blocked 5 shots to go along with his 10 points and 8 rebounds. On Monday, he scored 14 points, hauled in 9 boards, and blocked 2 more shots. Cam Reddish didn’t miss a beat in his first game back from a concussion, scoring 11 points on 4-8 shooting. But the star of the bench might have been Jeff Teague, who had 11 assists and 8 points in just 16 minutes. Vince Carter was also 3-3 from three with 9 points, and Brandon Goodwin chipped in 7 points.
All five members of the Hawks bench had a plus/minus of at least +7. Dewayne Dedmon led the way with a +22. This will be a unit that looks miles better in the second half of the season. Jeff Teague is starting to find his footing in his second stint with the Hawks; Dedmon has been a fantastic addition; Cam Reddish could develop into a sixth-man type role, and Brandon Goodwin has established himself deserving of playing time. On top of that, the Hawks will be getting even more help with the return of Clint Capela and Skal Labissiere.
As far as playoff hopes go, this game might have put those to rest for good, but you have to love the direction this team seems to be heading. The second half of the season can’t get here soon enough.
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