Joe's Back for 'Statement Game'

Tuesday, March 29, 2011
By Jon Newberry

Joe Johnson missed the last game and a half for the Hawks (sprained right thumb) but you get the sense that the injury would have to be life-threatening to keep him out of Wednesday’s match-up with the Orlando Magic.

“We understand the significance of this game,” said Joe following Tuesday’s practice. “This is more than likely going to be our first-round (playoff) opponent. It’s definitely a statement game.”

After being swept last year in the second round of the playoffs and then beaten badly in the pre-season by the Magic as well, the Hawks seem like they have found a successful game-plan during this regular season.

After losing a close game in Orlando in early November (a game in which the Hawks led with under 5 minutes remaining), Atlanta has won the last two meetings while holding the Magic to under 88 points per game.

According to Coach Drew, the key (other than containing Dwight Howard) is guarding the three-point line.

“I think their game is predicated a lot on having success at the three-point line,” said Drew. “The thing with the adjustments we’ve made, it puts us in the position, one, to defend the three. Then, it allows us to play a little bit more at home one-on-one. It gets us out of all the rotating. That can be deadly for you if you don’t get out on the shooters.”

Look for Joe to be re-inserted into the starting line-up and for the Hawks to go big. Jason Collins has started all three games against Orlando this season, and is likely to get the call again on Wednesday. That means that Marvin Williams, fresh off of a 31-point performance in Cleveland, will be coming of the bench.

Notes from the Locker Room:
– Joe will be #HeadbandJoe for at least a few more games. He was able to practice today without a bandage for one of the first times since he started wearing a headband.
– Josh Smith continues to receive treatment on his right knee that has been bothering him for much of the last couple months. He is not expected to miss any time.