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Charlotte Hornets at Atlanta Hawks

It  has been a wild week for the Atlanta Hawks, and the team returns home on Friday in a shorthanded state. Thabo Sefolosha, who was involved in a bizarre incident in New York that netted both himself and Pero Antic in jail, is out for the season following an ankle injury sustained during the course of his wild stay in the Big Apple, and that is just the beginning of the uncertainty surrounding the roster for Friday night.

The Atlanta Hawks may have only had one night off, but it will be a welcome relief for the team to return to basketball, and get away from the recent events that have had them in the news off the court.

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The Hawks will look to put that to the back of their mind with a victory over Charlotte tonight though, particularly seen as the banner for winning the Southeast division will be raised in Philips Arena before the game.

Obviously, Sefolosha’s absence is of the extended variety and the Hawks must get used to playing without their backup small forward. Somewhat fortunately, Atlanta has been able to play without Sefolosha in the lineup at times due to a long-term calf injury, and we should see a lot of Kent Bazemore and potentially an uptick from Shelvin Mack, John Jenkins and/or Austin Daye.

In addition, Paul Millsap has missed the past two games with a shoulder ailment, and his status is very much up in the air for this game. On one hand, there is no reason to rush Millsap along in his attempt to recover, but in the same breath, the Hawks would certainly love to see their All-Star power forward on the floor in a productive way before the start of the playoffs.

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Throw in the continued uncertainty of Pero Antic, who missed Wednesday’s game for obvious reasons, and the Atlanta Hawks have a bit of a pickle with regard to the roster on the whole. Still, this is a “meaningless” game in the standings, and while the Hornets are still alive in the race for the final playoff spots in the East, Charlotte is on the very fringe of contention.

The Atlanta Hawks have only two additional home games in the regular season, and prior to this game, the team will raise the banner associated with the 2014-2015 Southeast Division title. That is worth celebrating, and once the banner is lifted, the focus can shift to the future from a personnel standpoint.

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ABOUT THE HORNETS (33-45):

Charlotte is slipping in part due to injuries, and Al Jefferson (knee), Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (ankle) and Cody Zeller (shoulder) are all questionable for the rest of the season. Clifford plans to give the younger players long looks over the final handful of games and played rookies P.J. Hairston and Noah Vonleh a combined 48 minutes in Wednesday’s loss to the Raptors. “Games like (Wednesday) for the rookies, for instance, those are great teaching tapes,” Clifford told reporters. “There’s a lot there that they can take with them over the summer that they can watch, and that sometimes helps even more.”

ABOUT THE HAWKS (59-19):

Atlanta is gearing up for the playoffs with wins in six of its last eight games and took a break from pounding opponents with a 114-111 road win over Brooklyn on Wednesday. The Hawks had won their two previous games by a combined 59 points and are staring down the franchise’s first 60-win season. Atlanta’s big lead in the East has given the team the opportunity to rest forward Paul Millsap, who sat the last two games with a shoulder injury, while sprinkling in plenty of time off for the rest of the regulars.

BUZZER BEATERS

  1. Hawks G Thabo Sefolosha (broken leg) is out for the rest of the season.
  2. Charlotte G Lance Stephenson (toe) sat out Wednesday and is not expected to play Friday.
  3. The home team has taken each of the three meetings this season, with Atlanta earning a 105-75 win in its building on Nov.

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Categories: Sports