The Mavericks lately had threatened to overtake the Hawks in the race for better draft lottery odds and also keep the pick they owe them, so the Hawks tanked a game Tuesday night in San Antonio.
That should do the trick. After the loss the Hawks (28-50) had the fifth-worst record in the league and trailed the Mavs (31-46) and Wizards (31-46) by 3-1/2 games with four to play.
If the Hawks finish with the fifth-worst record with no ties, they’ll have a 42.1 percent chance of winning one of the top four picks, including a 10.5 percent chance at No. 1. The team with the sixth-worst record (no ties) will have a 37.2 percent chance at a top-four pick, including a nine percent shot at No. 1. Every percentage point counts.
More important for the Hawks, they want the the Mavericks to finish with no worse than the sixth-fewest victories because Dallas owes them a top-five protected draft pick. If the Mavericks finish with the fifth-worst record, they would be assured of picking no lower than fifth in the draft and thus the Hawks wouldn’t get the pick this year.
If the Mavs finish sixth or lower in the standings, the only way their pick doesn’t convey to the Hawks in this draft is if Dallas wins one of the top four picks in the lottery. If the Hawks don’t get the pick this year, it’s top-five protected again in 2020 and top-three protected in 2021 and 2022, but getting it this year will mean two top 10 picks in this draft.
That’s why the Hawks weren’t too keen on winning in San Antonio for the first time since 1997. They rested John Collins, but that didn’t do the trick because Alex Len and Kent Bazemore went off. The Hawks led by as many as nine points in the fourth quarter, so coach Lloyd Pierce had to make sure things went according to plan.
Len sat for the final seven minutes in favor of Deyonta Davis, who is playing on a 10-day contract. The Hawks trailed by five with 1:53 to go when Pierce removed star rookie Trae Young from the game. Vince Carter made two free throws to pull the Hawks within 112-109 before Spurs guard Bryn Forbes made a 3-pointer, followed by a Davis miss that was rebounded by the Spurs.
Pierce sent Young back in the game only after Derrick White made a jumper for a 117-109 Spurs lead. The Hawks got within five points of the lead on Kevin Huerter’s basket with 26.2 seconds left, but they declined to foul and let the Spurs to run out the shot clock.
It was an awkward ending for the Hawks, but mission accomplished. I can remember only one other time when the Hawks clearly tried to tank a game, and that didn’t work out.
In a home game against the Suns last season, former coach Mike Budenholzer sat former point guard Dennis Schroder for the entire fourth quarter of a close contest. The Hawks won, anyway, when Taurean Prince made a go-ahead 3-pointer with 7.6 seconds left.
This time, Pierce made sure the Hawks didn’t get a win they didn’t really want.
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