Hawks Notebook

Horford, Pachulia leave a big void in middle

By Amalie Benjamin
Globe Staff / April 30, 2012
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ATLANTA - The Hawks might have home-court advantage, but they don’t have their top two big men.

Neither Al Horford (torn left pectoral) nor Zaza Pachulia (sprained left foot) were active for Sunday night’s 83-74 Game 1 victory against the Celtics, and there’s a chance both will remain inactive.

“I’m actually not that concerned at all, to be perfectly honest,’’ coach Larry Drew said. “We have played without both guys a number of times. Would we like to have them? Yes. But we’ve been able to play without them, and to have some success without them.’’

Pachulia, the more likely to play of the two, had a boot on his foot Sunday, and said his progress was going in “slow motion.’’ Pachulia last saw game action April 13.

“We were really, really hoping for this thing to get well very soon,’’ said Pachulia, who has been able to ride the bike and work out. “You can’t run away from the timeline.

“I hate to miss the playoffs.’’

Asked when he’ll be back, Pachulia said, “I don’t have the answer about that. I wish I did.’’

The loss of Pachulia and Horford means a bigger role for Ivan Johnson, the rookie who at the start of the season had a hard time keeping his game under control. He played in 56 games this season, starting none, averaging 6.4 points and 4.0 rebounds in 16.7 minutes. Sunday, he had 4 points and 5 rebounds in 15 minutes.

The Hawks will need as much as Johnson can give in this series.

“I need the physicality that he brings, I need the hustle that he brings, and more importantly, I need the energy that he brings,’’ Drew said. “When he comes in the game, he’s a very fiery guy, but he brings an energy that was one of the things that really intrigued me about bringing him into our training camp.

“And he’s got a motor that a lot of guys don’t have, and he’s got a motor that a lot of guys don’t like to play against.’’

But that hasn’t always been a positive. Early in the season, Drew admitted, Johnson was “aggressive’’ and seemed to be called for every foul possible.

“He has toned it down,’’ Drew said. “I think he has learned how to play on this level, the things that are allowed, the things that are not allowed. He’s very energized, and he’s very intense. Some guys can be that intense and they can allow things to affect them in the course of the game. Early in the season he was like that.

“At this point he has gotten so, so much better, but he is definitely going to have to find that balance, particularly through the playoffs because this is a totally different animal.’’

Winning board games

The Hawks, despite not having Horford or Pachulia, made rebounding a focus against the Celtics and were rewarded.

Led by Josh Smith’s 18 rebounds, the Hawks outrebounded the Celtics, 50-41.

“We talked about going into this series that defensively we would have to be really good,” Drew said. “Our whole defensive philosophy and schemes with which we wanted to defend, we made it a point that the possession was not over until we got the rebound. Once that shot went up, we had to make the conscious effort of getting bodies on people. We wanted to win the energy game. We wanted to win the hustle game.’’

He’s makes the call

Smith might not have had any insight into whether Rajon Rondo will face any additional penalties for his bump of official Marc Davis, but he did know one thing: “It was definitely a foul, so that was the right call they made,’’ Smith said . . . Kirk Hinrich hit four 3-pointers (four more than the Celtics made), as the Hawks went 7 for 20 from behind the arc. The Celtics were 0 for 11.

Amalie Benjamin can be reached at

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