The Hawks, at least, have the playoffs to look forward to.
Atlanta, which will likely rest its starters again with its playoff seeding already settled, tries to avoid heading into the postseason with a sixth straight defeat Wednesday night when it visits a Bobcats team coming off its first win this month.
The Hawks (44-37) will open the playoffs as the Eastern Conference’s fifth seed in a first-round series against Orlando. Atlanta won the season series with the Magic 3-1, and coach Larry Drew is already looking ahead to that matchup.
“Mentally and physically we have to start getting ready for (Orlando),” Drew said after Monday’s 98-90 loss to Miami. “I’m just hoping I can have my players as healthy as they can be as they head into that series.”
The Hawks have been locked into the fifth seed for the last week, and the outcomes of the last three games haven’t mattered much to Drew.
“I think it’s more important to rest starters and get out of these last few games as healthy as we can,” he said. “Yes, we would like to break the losing streak. Yes, we would like to have a win to gain some momentum heading into the playoffs.
“But I can live with healthy players better than I can live with a win from a game that has very little meaning.”
Drew has rested his starters in the fourth quarter in each of the last two games, and his reserves nearly pulled out a win Monday against a Heat team that was trying to secure the East’s second seed.
After trailing by 20 points with 3:19 remaining in the third quarter, Atlanta tied it at 88 with 3:28 left in the fourth but was unable to pull ahead.
Atlanta, which hasn’t lost six consecutive games since Feb. 8-20, 2008, also received an encouraging performance from Josh Smith(notes), who had a team-high 17 points on 8-of-13 shooting after sitting out the previous three games with right knee swelling.
While the Hawks, 2-1 against Charlotte this season, are preparing for a fourth straight playoff appearance, the Bobcats (33-48) will miss the postseason for the sixth time in their seven-year history.
Charlotte was one-half game out of eighth place in the East on Feb. 26 but has lost 16 of 23 since. The Bobcats were eliminated from playoff contention with an overtime loss to Orlando last Wednesday, their fourth straight defeat.
Charlotte suffered two more losses before Monday’s 105-103 win over New Jersey, its first in April. The game looked like it was going to overtime until D.J. Augustin(notes) hit a fadeaway jumper with 1.1 seconds remaining.
“I’m just glad we got the win,” said Augustin, who finished with 19 points. “I’m glad I made the big shot and now we have a chance to head to the summer with another one.”