Locked-In at 5

Wednesday, April 6, 2011
By Jon Newberry

It is official, the Atlanta Hawks will be the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference Playoffs.

That means the Hawks will face the fourth-seeded Orlando Magic in the first round, a team that they have beaten three out of four times this regular season.

It is somewhat of a luxury to have your playoff position locked up with over a week left in the regular season.

First, the Hawks have several players on the mend that could use some time to heal. Josh Smith missed last night’s game with swelling in his right knee stemming from an injury that has bothered him since early March. Big Jason Collins (a key piece to the Hawks strategy for defending Dwight Howard) was forced to leave last night’s game with a sprained left ankle. Even players like Joe Johnson (right thumb), Kirk Hinrich (calf) and Al Horford (hamstring) would all benefit from reduced minutes for the final four games of the season.

Since the Hawks can’t move up or down from the 5-spot at this point, there should be no pressure to rush any of these guys back from injury.

Of course, coaches will claim that you walk a fine line at this point of the season. You want to give as much rest as possible without sacrificing conditioning or getting rusty.

Stay tuned for more analysis on the match-up with the Magic in the coming days and visit Hawks.com/playoffs for all of the up to date information including tickets, video, analysis and more!