Hawks face Wizards, make run at postseason position

NBA: Atlanta Hawks at Indiana Pacers
·3 min read

The Atlanta Hawks might be close to getting an important piece of their starting lineup back, just as they prepare to make a run for the No. 4 seed in the NBA Eastern Conference.

The Hawks (37-31) could have De'Andre Hunter back in the lineup on Monday night when they host the Washington Wizards (32-36), a team on the verge of clinching its spot in the postseason. It is the first of a two-game series in Atlanta that concludes Wednesday.

Atlanta defeated the Wizards 116-100 on Jan. 29 in Washington in the only meeting between the teams this season.

Hunter has missed 48 games following right-knee surgery and has worked through the rehab process. He played 5-on-5 last week and was scheduled to participate in Sunday's practice. He will be part of the walk-through on Monday before the game, and the staff will make a decision on him at that time.

"Getting a two-way player is always good, and having him back, whether that's the first or second unit, it just allows us to do a few more things," Hawks coach Nate McMillan said.

Hunter played in 20 games and is averaging 16 points, 5.1 rebounds and is shooting 50.2 percent from the floor and 35.6 percent on 3-pointers. He was chosen to the 2021 NBA Rising Stars roster and is considered one of the team's best defensive players.

Veteran Bogdan Bogdanovic told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, "He was honestly our best player before injury, most consistent player. So we all know how much we miss him, and he knows as well. It's good to see him hooping, and he looks good."

If the Hawks want to move up a spot and earn the No. 4 seed, they will need to finish ahead of the New York Knicks, who own the tiebreaker between the two clubs. Atlanta's final four games will be at home. Atlanta had a chance to close that gap on Thursday, but their comeback fell short in a 133-126 loss to Indiana.

"It's definitely frustrating anytime you lose, but understanding that, we're still in a good spot, still keeping everybody's heads up," said Atlanta guard Trae Young.

The Wizards have won two in a row and seven of their last 10 after Saturday's wild 133-132 overtime win against Indiana, a contest that saw Bradley Beal score 50 points. But Beal had to sit out the overtime after hurting his hamstring and ankle. Beal, who is averaging 35 points for five games in May, will miss the games against the Hawks on Monday and Wednesday with a left hamstring strain and will be reevaluated Friday.

The Wizards got a historic triple-double from Russell Westbrook, who matched Oscar Robertson's all-time record of 181. Westbrook has 35 triple-doubles this season, and his two free throws with a second remaining gave the Wizards the win against Indiana.

"I love his spirit, his determination," Washington coach Scott Brooks said. "He's really, really helped us become a better team, and that's vintage, you know -- rebound, making a clutch shot, blocking a shot. Those are all great things, and those are all team things. That's what Russell's about; he's always been that way."

Westbrook was ejected in the fourth quarter of the first game against Atlanta after getting into an altercation with Rajon Rondo, who no longer is with the team.

--Field Level Media

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