Big Loss Suffered in Big Win
Atlanta clinched a Playoff spot, but Joe Johnson injured his hand in the process.
by Tracy Weissenberg
It has been an up-and-down season for the Atlanta Hawks, as the team seems to continually swing towards both ends of the spectrum. The same happened Saturday against New Jersey, as a win to clinch a playoff spot also dealt the team a blow in the form of Joe Johnson’s right thumb injury.
In the beginning of the third quarter, Johnson’s thumb bent backwards as he and Anthony Morrow went for a loose ball. “I didn’t even know if it was still attached after it happened,” said Johnson.
“It seemed like the pain kind of went away for a minute when I came out there and sat back down, but the longer I sat there the more it started throbbing,” he said.
Asked how he felt after the game, Johnson said, “It’s just sore, man, I can’t really do much with it as far as catching a basketball. Maybe if it was my left hand, it would be a lot different with me going out there trying to play. We got to look at the bigger picture. We got to be as healthy as possible going into the Playoffs, but just even trying to sit the ball up [on my hand] to hold, it hurts.”
On clinching the Playoffs for a fourth straight season, Johnson said, “It was very special, coming from where we’ve come from when I first got here, at least the first year or two to now. We’ve been in a little rut but we’re a long ways from where we used to be. So to have four straight Playoff appearances is fantastic, I think it’s great. We just got to try to build on what we haven’t done in the Playoffs, just try to get better this go around.”
“It’s a big accomplishment, I mean there’s a lot of guys who play a whole career without making [the Playoffs]…if we get our act together, we can do something special this year,” said forward Josh Smith.
While the Hawks haven’t been a model of consistency this season, they aren’t the only team in the East struggling lately. New York is 7-12 since the blockbuster trade with Denver, including six straight losses. Boston has lost two straight and six of their last 10.
With college currently in the thick of March Madness, I asked Al Horford about his ability to translate the success of back-to-back championships at Florida into four straight Playoff appearances since his rookie season. “I think what helped me the most with all that was I just knew what it took as a team to be in that position and that’s kind of what I wanted to bring into this team, just that positive energy and working hard and playing team ball,” said Horford.
“What it takes to win a championship, I think that’s the mentality that I took [from college],” he said, “The mental approach you need to have and just it’s all about team.”
While the Hawks got back on track Saturday, they will wait for word on Johnson’s progress, and try to finish the season with the consistency necessary to get their mindset right for the Playoffs.