Locked into the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference, the Atlanta Hawks may decide to rest starters again in their regular-season finale.
After all, playing their regulars in Milwaukee won’t prepare them much for facing the East’s top seed, and resting starters has been the norm for playoff-bound teams against the lowly Bucks.
The Hawks look to sweep the three-game season series over a Milwaukee team that wraps up the worst season in franchise history Wednesday night.
After securing the East’s last playoff spot with a win over Miami on Saturday, Atlanta (37-44) decided to rest starters Kyle Korver, Paul Millsap and DeMarre Carroll for Monday’s home finale against Charlotte. The depleted Hawks still took a 15-point lead into the fourth quarter, but when coach Mike Budenholzer decided to give his other two regular starters – Jeff Teague and Pero Antic – the entire final period off, the Bobcats stormed back to hand Atlanta a 95-93 loss.
"I think when you’re in our situation, health and all of those things are a priority," Budenholzer said. "… Some of our young guys got great opportunities. I think there’s a lot to take from tonight."
Considering Budenholzer erred on the side of caution in that meaningless game, he may use a similar approach in order to prevent against injury against the Bucks (15-66). His coaching staff may also be looking ahead to its first-round series against Indiana, which clinched the top seed Monday.
The Pacers were still in a tight race with Miami for first place last week when coach Frank Vogel decided to rest all five starters at Milwaukee. Indiana went on to beat the Bucks by two.
Milwaukee is coming off Monday’s 110-100 loss to a Toronto team that rested leading scorer DeMar DeRozan despite battling with Chicago for the No. 3 seed.
The defeat to the Raptors guaranteed that the short-handed Bucks, who have five players injured and another suspended (center Larry Sanders), would finish with the worst record in the NBA.
Leading scorer Brandon Knight returned to the lineup after sitting out Saturday’s loss at Washington with a sore right hip and finished with 18 points for Milwaukee, which shot 52.1 percent and had 50 points in the paint.
"We fell behind, we tried to fight back," coach Larry Drew said. "We got it under 10, but we just couldn’t get over the hump."
The Bucks have lost 16 of 18.
They’ve dropped six straight and nine of 10 to Atlanta. The Hawks shot 52.6 percent in a 112-87 win at Milwaukee on Jan. 25, then hit 10 of 16 in the fourth quarter along with 11 of 12 free throws in a 102-97 home win March 13.
Milwaukee’s Ramon Sessions, averaging 20.3 points and 6.0 assists in his last four games, is averaging 10.7 points on 39.3 percent shooting in three contests versus Atlanta this season.