DeMarre Carroll somehow avoided a career-altering injury after landing awkwardly on his left knee in the fourth quarter of Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals. Thank goodness. But that hardly assures the Atlanta Hawks’ breakout wing will be effective for the postseason’s remainder, let alone available to play at all.
Despite originally being listed as day-to-day, Carroll will be a game-time decision for tonight’s crucial contest against the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Here’s Joe Vardon of the Northeast Ohio Media Group:
The Hawks are calling forward DeMarre Carroll a “game-time decision” for Game 2 tonight against the Cavs, even though Carroll’s left knee was heavily wrapped, he walked with a limp, and his likely replacement said he expects to start.
Coach Mike Budenholzer said he was “hopeful” Carroll could play, but also spoke of “making decisions for both his short term and his long term and his health and his career.”
Reserve wing Kent Bazemore will take Carroll’s place in the lineup if the Hawks deem it prudent to hold him out. A seldom-used fourth-year veteran, Bazemore seemed an unlikely playoff cog for Atlanta as little as five weeks ago. But Carroll’s status coupled with Thabo Sefolosha’s injury at the hands of the NYPD suddenly make the 6-foot-5, 200-pounder his team’s most viable defender of LeBron James.
Whether Carroll can play or not, it stands to reason the Hawks will tweak their defense of the four-time MVP in Game 2. Bazemore simply doesn’t have the strength to bang with James in the post, and though Paul Millsap did an admirable job defending him down the stretch of Wednesday’s game, that’s a losing proposition for Mike Budenholzer’s team on the whole. Not only because Millsap would ultimately prove overmatched, but also due to the fact that slotting him on LeBron would force an already undersized Bazemore onto the rebound-gobbing Tristan Thompson and Timofey Mozgov.
A limited or absent Carroll makes things more difficult for the Hawks on the other end, too. A hobbled Kyrie Irving was dismal defensively in Game 1, and the presence of a non-threat like Bazemore would allow David Blatt the opportunity to “hide” his point guard on that end of the floor – assuming Irving plays, of course. The lefty is simply limited offensively, too, lacking the three-point shooting ability and cutting knack that’s made Carroll Atlanta’s most productive and consistent playoff scorer.
Injuries suck. The league has been ravaged by them all year long, and that unfortunate development has continued as the season’s reached its most important point. But both the Hawks and Cavaliers are suffering from them. Whichever team makes the adjustment that better limits their influence will have a leg up in Game 2.
Atlanta and Cleveland tip-off from Philips Arena at 8:30 EST on TNT.