Joe is Back for Important Stretch

Friday, March 19, 2010
By Jon Newberry

First thing’s first: JOE IS BACK.

Joe participated in shootaround this morning and should be ready to play full minutes tonight against the Bobcats.

Joe’s return is in time for an important stretch that could serve as a final preview for the playoffs. Both the Bobcats (currently 6th in the East) and the Bucks (5th East) are possible first round opponents, while Orlando (2nd East) could be a 2nd round match-up. Anytime you face a playoff team at this point of the season the level of intensity usually rises.

The three games leading up to the match-up with Orlando should not be overlooked in importance. The Bobcats (tonight) and Bucks (in Milwaukee on Monday) are not traditional playoff teams and were not expected to do much this season. Both have played extremely well recently andwill have the advantage of an enthusiastic home crowd come playoff time, much like the Highlight Factory was rocking when the Hawks hosted Boston in 2008 after a long playoff drought. Establishing a mental advantage by winning these regular season games should help Atlanta if they end up facing either opponent in the first round.

Sunday’s game against San Antonio is wedged in the middle of this cluster of Eastern Conference opponents and should provide another night of playoff atmosphere. The prime time broadcast on ESPN should draw substantial national attention as the NCAA action wraps up on Sunday night. The Hawks will be looking to settle the score after dropping a road decision earlier this season while allowing Tim Duncan to dominate the boards (he had 27 rebounds).

Finally, the match-up with Orlando on Wednesday needs no preview. It has been well documented/discussed/ridiculed that the Hawks are 0-3 against the Magic so far this season. More on that game next week…