Rest? Playoff race may prevent Hawks from sitting players down stretch

To rest or not to rest?

Last season, the Hawks left little doubt that they were playoff-bound en route to a 60-win regular season and top seed in the Eastern Conference. They were afforded a chance to rest players down the stretch, sitting starters and other key players several games.

The results were questionable. The Hawks lost their final three regular-season games and it could be argued that the season-long momentum was stunted going into the playoffs. The Hawks advanced to the conference finals, after six-game series wins over the Nets and Wizards, before being swept by the Cavaliers. Rest was not necessarily an issue in the postseason. Injuries were the Hawks’ biggest issue concern.

The Hawks likely won’t rest players the remainder of this season, according to coach Mike Budenholzer.

The Hawks have all but clinched a playoff berth with a magic number of two going into Monday’s game against the Bulls. However, resting players may not be an option because playoff seeding is very much up for grabs. The Hawks are currently third in the East but only by a half-game over the Celtics, a game over the Heat and 1-1/2 games over the Hornets. Securing home-court advantage in the first round is far from a guarantee.

So, how will Budenholzer handle to rest issue down the stretch with just eight games remaining?

“We’ll just go day by day,” Budenholzer said recently. “It feels like, you can talk to and communicate with our players, more often than not they are feeling well and feeling good. They are in a good place. We are always conscientious about being healthy and can we push that envelope. Right now, we are just going day by day and don’t see anything different.”