Thursday’s four games each delivered more intensity and competition than Christmas Day’s duds, beginning with the Hawks’ gasp-inducing victory in double-overtime against the Cavaliers. Jeff Teague delivered the winning basket—a 20-foot jumper which danced around the rim five times before finally dropping through as the buzzer sounded—and the victory was even more stirring since Atlanta lost two starters to injury during the game. Starting SF DeMarre Carroll left with a sprained right thumb in the fourth quarter, which was bad enough, and Al Horford exited with a right shoulder injury in overtime.
Horford finished with 25 points, eight boards, four assists and two blocks, but the health of his shoulder is the only thing fantasy owners will care about. Initial reports were very vague and it sounds like we’ll have to wait until Friday afternoon before the team releases any details. An MRI is all but inevitable and it we can only hope that Horford didn’t tear a muscle as he did in January 2012, when a torn pectoral knocked him out for four months.
As for DeMarre Carroll, he was in serious pain and although the initial diagnosis is a ‘sprain’, it will again require an MRI before we can rule out a tear or other serious damage. If Horford and/or Carroll miss games, which isn’t guaranteed, coach Mike Budenholzer will have to get creative with some matchup-based lineups, while relying more on a deep bench that includes Mike Scott, Gustavo Ayon, Pero Antic, Elton Brand and Cartier Martin. Fantasy owners should also keep an eye on reserve guard Shelvin Mack (see below).
Those injuries marred what was otherwise a brilliant road victory for the Hawks, whose 16-13 record has them entrenched as the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference. They join the Pacers and Heat as the only teams in the East with records above .500.