Taurean Prince will be making his 11th NBA start Sunday.
This one will be different. Much different.
Prince will remain in the starting lineup as the Hawks play at the Wizards in the opening round of the Eastern Conference playoffs. The rookie took over the starting assignment when Thabo Sefolosha went out with a right groin strain. Sefolosha played in the final two regular-season games upon his return after missing eight contests.
“You can’t until you get out there,” Paul Millsap said of the difference for Prince. “The playoffs is one of those things that you can’t really talk about it. Once you are out there on the court, you definitely feel it. Once he gets out there, he’ll definitely feel it.”
Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer said he did not have any special conversation with Prince prior to the most important game of the forward’s young career.
“At the end of the day, it’s basketball,” Budenholzer said. “I think he has played well. He is a competitive, active young guy. He has a lot of confidence. I just want him to go play basketball. He knows that. I think he’ll be great. He’s got great depth and support around him. We just need him to go play.”
Prince appeared in 59 games this season. He averaged 5.7 points and 2.7 rebounds in 16.6 minutes. He will have several wings behind him in the rotation.
Wizards coach Scott Brook doesn’t see the Hawks starting a rookie as an advantage for his team. Not at this stage of the season.
“He can make a 3 with his feet set,” Brooks said. “He does a great job of catching and going and attacking the basket. Defensively, he is on the ball and he’s active. Yes, he’s a rookie but he’s 82 games into his rookie year. If this was game one of the regular season I would say we have an advantage. But to me he is no longer a rookie.”
The Hawks listed Kent Bazemore (right knee bone bruise) and Dennis Schroder (left foot) as probable on the injury report. Budenholzer said both players, including Schroder, are fine to play and expects no issues.
“He has just been dealing with a mid-foot sprain,” Budenholzer said of Schroder. “I don’t expect any issues or problems. We’ve all been managing it the last 10 days or so. He should be fine and good to go.”
Ryan Kelly and DeAndre Bembry were the Hawks inactive players for Game 1. … Brooks said if the situation warrants, he will employ the Hack-a-Howard strategy against Dwight Howard. … The Hawks will wear the normal road gray uniforms. … The Wizards have won three straight games against the Hawks in the regular season.