The news keeps getting worse for the Atlanta Hawks.
Starting guard Kyle Korver, the NBA’s top 3-point shooter in the regular season, was diagnosed with a severe right ankle sprain that will keep him out for the rest of the playoffs. Korver suffered the injury in a loose-ball situation during the third quarter of Game 2 and, though X-Rays were negative, he is scheduled to see a foot and ankle specialist for further evaluation.
"There was some hope last night (leaving the arena) that maybe it wouldn’t be that bad, or something less serious. You always kinda hope for the best and prepare for the worst," coach Mike Budenholzer said on a conference call. "He’s such a good teammate, he’s such a competitor … It’s very, very difficult for him personally."
Korver is averaging 11.1 points and five rebounds per game this postseason.
Though his shooting numbers have dropped off severely in the playoffs (35.5 percent from 3-point range) as opponents key in on him around the perimeter, the attention on Korver provided floor spacing and a consistent outside threat in Budenholzer’s offense.
"He’s a huge part of our leadership, our fabric, our fiber," Budenholzer said of Korver. "We will miss him."
Budenholzer did not commit to a replacement for Korver in the starting lineup, though reserve wing Kent Bazemore is the favorite heading into Game 3.
The injury is just the latest setback for a Hawks team that finds itself trailing the Cleveland Cavaliers 2-0 in the Eastern Conference finals after dropping two straight games at home. Starting forward DeMarre Carroll, LeBron James’ primary defender for Atlanta, suffered a knee sprain in Game 1 while All-Star big man Al Horford suffered a leg injury that sent him to the sidelines in Game 2.
The Cavaliers are dealing with their own set of injuries. Starting forward Kevin Love is out for the playoffs after undergoing shoulder surgery while All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving aggravated the tendinitis in his left knee during Game 1. He missed Game 2 and his playing status remains questionable.
"Injuries are such a big part of our league and a big part of the playoffs. Everybody has to deal with them. We’re not any different," Budenholzer said. "You can’t spend too much time or frustration thinking about it, concerned about it. You’ve got to get your mind right for the next game."
Now the Hawks, who entered the playoffs down top reserve wing Thabo Sefolosha, will be forced to rely heavily on their system and bench as the series shifts back to Cleveland.