The Atlanta Hawks had some bad luck in Game 1 of their Eastern final against the Cleveland Cavaliers. They'll be a solid NBA pick for Game 2 if DeMarre Carroll can play.
Jason’s record as of May 20: 77-79-5 ATS, 16-19 Totals, plus-0.15 units ML, 6-2 Series (plus-4.0 units)
Here we go again. One day after we were left hanging about whether or not Dwight Howard would play for the Houston Rockets in Game 2 of their Western final against the Golden State Warriors, we're stuck in a similar situation with DeMarre Carroll and the Atlanta Hawks. Carroll injured his knee in the fourth quarter of Wednesday's 97-89 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers (+2.5 away). Will Carroll play in Game 2 of the Eastern final on Friday (8:30 p.m. ET, TNT)?
Maybe. Carroll's MRI on Thursday revealed no structural damage, so he's being listed as questionable. Looks like a hyperextension and a bone bruise at this point. You could make an argument that Carroll is even more important to the Hawks than Howard is to the Rockets. But the NBA odds for Friday's matchup still have Atlanta favored by two points as we go to press, up from 1.5 points at the open. Let's do what we did for Howard and present you the “will he play/won't he play” betting scenarios for Game 2.
Scenario 1: Carroll Plays
The Hawks didn't cover the spread in Game 1, but other than the result and the Carroll injury, folks here at the ranch are content enough with Wednesday's basketball picks. This was a close game that easily could have gone in the other direction; the difference was J.R. Smith (14.5 PER) hitting eight of his dozen 3-pointers, while the Hawks as a team went 4-for-23 from long range. That's just dumb luck right there.
As for LeBron James (25.9 PER) scoring 31 points, much of that while Carroll was guarding him, no sweat. James was 12-of-26 from the floor Wednesday night, doing his best Derrick Rose impersonation: high on volume, low on efficiency. If James were to repeat that performance every single game, the Hawks would be okay with that. So would we. It's not like Smith will keep shooting 66.6 percent from behind the arc in the long run.
Free NBA Pick: Take the Hawks
Scenario 2: Carroll Doesn't Play
Welcome to your nightmare, Atlanta. It's not that Carroll (15.9 PER) is a better player than Howard; rather, it's the role that Carroll plays on his team. He's their Bruce Bowen, their 3-and-D small forward. Carroll was good on 39.5 percent of his trey attempts during the regular season, and while his plus-0.5 DBPM doesn't leap off the page, that was against some of the top offensive talent in the league. Guys like LeBron.
This would normally be where Thabo Sefolosha (13.8 PER, plus-2.5 DBPM) comes in and saves the day, but as you may recall, he had a little run-in with the po-po. That leaves Plan C, Kent Bazemore (9.7 PER, plus-1.3 DBPM). The sophomore from Old Dominion has got some game – he can defend, and he can hit a few threes (36.4 percent). However, Bazemore isn't as good defensively as Sefolosha, and he's considerably worse offensively than Carroll.
Then you have to account for the bench minutes that have to be filled if Bazemore gets the start Friday night. Who will it be? Austin Daye (11.6 career PER), perhaps? He's got a decent 3-point stroke (35.1 percent) for a big guy, but that's about it. Maybe head coach Mike Budenholzer could break the emergency glass on Mike Scott (15.1 PER), who appears to be healthy despite sitting out the last five games. Except Budenholzer has already swatted down that idea. Whomever it turns out to be, Budenholzer's options are limited, and so are Atlanta's chances of covering if Carroll can't suit up.