Things aren’t looking too well in Atlanta as the Hawks fall to the Brooklyn Nets Sunday afternoon, making it seven losses in a row, the longest skid of the season. The most interesting thing might have been the half time show as a fan launched himself from a trampoline about a dozen feet in the air, turned his back to the basket for the stylish reverse dunk. Not only did he finish with flare but then he made one of the best celebrations the league has seen all season. Beginning by sprinting into a somersault, then bouncing around the floor on his backside, spun around on his back in a break-dance move, and finished it off with a unknown move to stand up for a loud applause.
The last place in Eastern Conference Brooklyn Nets have the NBA’s worst record, also have struggled to protect any lead, especially on the road. They led by 22 points in the first half and pulled away late for only their sixth road win. Dennis Schroder led Atlanta with 24 points. Rookie forward Taurean Prince had 17 points in his first start. Lopez scored 23 points and the Nets beat Atlanta 107-92 on Sunday, handing the shorthanded Hawks their seventh straight loss.
The Hawks are now tied with Milwaukee and Indiana for fifth in the Eastern Conference. Atlanta’s slide has come as Millsap has missed five straight games with left knee tightness, Hawks are now 0-8 without their All-Star Paul Millsap this year. The Hawks were also without Kent Bazemore for the fourth straight game (knee bruise) and Thabo Sefolosha (right groin strain) was a late scratch as well, giving Taurean Prince his first start.
The seven-game losing streak matches Atlanta’s longest of the season. Hawks center Dwight Howard, who had 19 points and 16 rebounds, said after the game that players ”have to fight for each other” and ”can’t allow the enemy to be ourselves. The enemy has to be the other team.” Howard also stated: ”There are times we have to do a better job collectively of staying together and staying strong, especially when we have tough times.”
Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer said Millsap has had swelling in the knee and an MRI ”was clean, nothing unusual or serious.” Budenholzer said the plan is ”just continuing to monitor him and rehab and hope for the best.”
Taurean Prince has shown promise each opportunity he has received, making the Hawks and coaching staff take a real look in the offseason on whether you want to resign our veterans or give Prince the keys and develop him over the summer.
The difference between good and great franchises come from player development, because Atlanta has not been a free agent destination in recent years. Hawks had high hopes of moving up in the eastern conference landscape after the all star break but have been abysmal on both ends, also having key injuries to three starters leading them to 4-10 in the month of March.
According to Chris Vivlamore of the AJC, Kent Bazemore, Paul Millsap and Thabo Sefolosha are expected to be out again versus the Suns on Tuesday. The Hawks will have to put up points against the young Phoenix Suns, a starting lineup that ages average around 21. Miami Heat currently sit two games behind in the eighth spot, at a whopping 35-38.
If Atlanta continues to struggle, which is possible with no time table return for Millsap, the Hawks are in danger of becoming the eighth seed or completely falling out of playoff contention.