ATLANTA — Larry Drew has no regrets about his decision to rest Atlanta’s starters in losses to Toronto and the New York Knicks to end the regular season.
The losses ended the Hawks’ hopes of landing the No. 5 seed in the Eastern Conference. Instead, Atlanta has the No. 6 seed and will face No. 3 Indiana the first round. The series opens Sunday at Indiana.
Drew said after a light practice Thursday that he still believes it was more important that his players are rested and healthy for the seven-game series than to try for the No. 5 seed and a date with Brooklyn.
“We had no real preference where we wanted to end up,” Drew said. “Going into postseason play, we wanted to try to get some healthy bodies and that’s what we were focusing on. I’ll live with the decision in that regard.”
The Hawks held out Josh Smith, Al Horford, Jeff Teague, Devin Harris and Kyle Korver in Wednesday’s 98-92 loss at New York. Horford, who had some lingering pain in his left pectoral muscle that was surgically repaired last season, also missed Tuesday night’s 113-96 loss to Toronto.
Horford participated in Thursday’s practice and is expected to start on Sunday.
According to Las Vegas-based Pregame.com, the odds against the Hawks winning the NBA title are 250 to 1.
“We’re going to leave that for everybody else to read,” Smith said. “We’re a confident bunch and we’re very unselfish. We split the series with this team in the regular season, so we’re as confident as a basketball team as they are. It should be a good series.”
The Hawks are in the playoffs for the sixth consecutive season. They lost to the Celtics in the first round last year after advancing to the conference semifinals three years in a row.
The Hawks added two veteran guards before the season, DeShawn Stevenson and Devin Harris, with extensive playoff experience. Stevenson played on the Dallas Mavericks’ 2011 championship team.
“We have guys who have been in a lot of playoff situations,” Smith said. “We have one that has won a championship. We have a lot of playoff minutes on this basketball team.”
The Hawks lost guard Lou Williams and center Zaza Pachulia to injuries during the season. Those injuries cut into Drew’s depth and made it more important his active players are healthy.
“We were talking about Zaza the other day as a staff, how important he would be in a series like this,” Drew said. “His style of play is real important in the playoffs, where they do allow you to play a little more physical. We’re certainly going to miss Zaza but we have some guys to step up.”