While emphasizing that he's not making excuses, Hawks coach Larry Drew said a few key players are a little banged up. Center Al Horford's left ankle, which kept him out of the team's win over Portland March 12, is still bothering him.
Forward Josh Smith is feeling the effects of his sprained medial collateral ligament in his right knee. Guard Joe Johnson has had a sore left hand since the preseason.
"It's one of those things that you're going to have to push through," Horford said. "I hope I'm able to be healthy by the time the playoffs start."
Drew started the lineup of Horford at center, Smith and Marvin Williams at forward, and Kirk Hinrich and Johnson at guard. He went with this group to match up with Detroit's unusual backcourt size. Pistons guards Tracy McGrady and Richard Hamilton stand 6-foot-8 and 6-7, respectively. It was Williams' first start in the past five games.
Said Williams, "Whatever coach feels like he needs to do for us to win games is what I'm about."
Guard Jeff Teague, however, did not play (coach's decision) for the 11th time this season, despite his solid play against the Miami Heat on Friday. Drew said he thought that starting the 6-2 Teague would create a mismatch, wanted to keep the starting unit intact on the floor and wanted to give more minutes to Jamal Crawford to try to get him going.
Just Hawks stuff
After receiving a backlash from selling Kobe Bryant T-shirts in the Philips Arena team gear store when the Los Angeles Lakers played in Atlanta on March 8, the Hawks suspended the practice of selling shirts of opposing star players. When the Heat were in town on Friday, there were no LeBron James or Dwyane Wade shirts to be found.
Prior to the game, Williams watched the North Carolina-Washington NCAA tournament game in the locker room with some uneasiness. While Williams played for North Carolina, he is from Bremerton, Wash., and nearly went to Washington.
"I love (Huskies coach Lorenzo) Romar," Williams said. "He's great."
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