While the Atlanta Hawks faced their future playoff opponent, their starters ending up watching most of the game.The Hawks will likely treat Wednesday night's regular-season finale against the Memphis Grizzlies in a similar manner.
Atlanta is expected to let its starters play a little in the first half then rest them ahead of its upcoming first-round series against Miami. The Hawks (47-34) have clinched the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference, and will start the postseason this weekend at home for the first time since 1997.
Atlanta's 81-79 home win on Tuesday over the Heat had the feel of a preseason game as only one starter played more than 20 minutes, and the Hawks got 48 points from their reserves.
"We had an opportunity to rest some guys," coach Mike Woodson said. "The guys who are usually on the bench were able to come out and play well, especially on the defensive end."
Flip Murray had a team-leading 17 points, and Marvin Williams added 13 on 4-of-4 shooting in his second game since returning from a sore lower back. The meaningless contest also gave point guard Speedy Claxton the chance for his first appearance in more than two seasons, as he scored one point in eight minutes.
Multiple injuries, most recently a pulled hamstring, had prevented Claxton from playing since March 3, 2007. He signed a four-year, $25 million contract before the 2006-07 season but played in only 42 games.
"It was fun," Claxton said. "It felt a little weird to be out on the court, a little bit rusty."
It's doubtful the Hawks will mind if the Grizzlies snap their four-game win streak and a five-game skid to Atlanta, which goes back to Dec. 15, 2006. Atlanta got 26 from Joe Johnson on Dec. 3 in a 105-95 win over Memphis (23-58).
The Grizzlies have clinched their best record in three years, but while they failed to reach 25 wins for a third straight season, they won't have 60 losses for the third time in a row.
After Wednesday, Memphis will once again look to the future, which begins with the draft lottery on May 19. If this season was any indication, the Grizzlies' future top draft pick might get plenty of minutes.
Memphis has started rookies O.J. Mayo, Marc Gasol and Darrell Arthur in 56 games.
Mayo, who leads all first-year players with 18.4 points per game, needs five points to top Shareef Abdur-Rahim's franchise rookie record of 1,494 in 1996-97. Shooting 52.9 percent, Gasol should break his brother Pau's team mark for field goal percentage by a rookie - .518 in 2001-02.
"We know we haven't been going anywhere for a while, but we're playing hard, playing together, playing pretty consistently, trying to build for next year," Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins said.
While Hollins' team dropped to 1-4 over its last five following Monday's 119-110 loss in Phoenix, Memphis has won three of its last four home games and has passed 14 wins at the FedEx Forum for the first time since their last playoff appearance in 2005-06.