Things quickly went from bad to worse for the Atlanta Hawks on Thursday. It's not just the fact they were blown out again by the Cavaliers, trailing by 30 after three quarters, but also that their leading scorer Joe Johnson suffered a severe right ankle sprain and is doubtful for Saturday's Game 4.
The play occurred in the third quarter when Johnson attempted to clean up a missed lay-up and was being guarded by Lebron James. There was contact from James and the contact caused Johnson to land awkwardly on his right ankle as it twisted on his descent back to the floor.
The Hawks were already without starting small forward Marvin Williams and starting center Al Horford in Game 3. The effect was evident as Atlanta was out-rebounded 43-34 and their starters were out-scored 74-52.
Johnson has been averaging over 20 points per game for the last four seasons, since he was traded to the Hawks after playing for Boston and Phoenix his first five seasons in the NBA. Johnson has been averaging 17.1 points in the playoffs and averaged 21.4 during the regular season.
Without Johnson, Atlanta loses their best player, best offensive threat, and go-to-scorer down the stretch as well as their best on-ball defender.
This is a tremendous blow for the Hawks' and their chances of advancing to the next round (not that they had any in the first place). There is also a chance that Al Horford and Marvin Williams will be again ruled out as well.
The trio combined to account for 46.4 points and 20 rebounds during the regular season and their contributions will be sorely missed. It will be interesting to see the tactics that Atlanta head coach Mike Woodson employs to get more offense out of his starting line-up and his team