April 07, 2017

CLEVELAND (AP) Fighting for a playoff spot, the Atlanta Hawks will rest center Dwight Howard and be without three other key players against the Cavaliers.

Forward Paul Millsap and guards Dennis Schroder and Kent Bazemore will also sit out Friday night for Atlanta, which is jostling with five other teams for four Eastern Conference playoff spots.

Howard is averaging 13.4 points and 12.8 rebounds for the Hawks, who did not announce the 6-foot-11 star will sit until 40 minutes before tip-off.

Millsap (swollen left knee) and Bazemore (bone bruise) have both been battling injuries and they aren't ready to play in back-to-back games.

Millsap played his second game Wednesday night after missing eight and was on the floor for 29 minutes in a 123-116 win over Boston. Bazemore has come off the bench in four games since coming back following a five-game absence. He played 19 minutes against the Celtics.

Schroder suffered a sprained foot on Thursday. Jose Calderon will start in his spot.

The Hawks listed Schroder and Tim Hardaway Jr. as questionable, and coach Mike Budenholzer initially said Schroder would play.

The Cavs will again be without center Tristan Thompson, who is out with a sprained right thumb. Coach Tyronn Lue provided very few details about Thompson's injury or when he might return. Cleveland has four games left in the regular season.

Atlanta entered Friday's game fifth overall in the Eastern Conference. There are five teams separated by 1 + games battling for the final four berths.

Budenholzer acknowledged the timing of the injuries is difficult with so few games left and so much on the line.

''Every team is probably dealing with this to some degree and trying to figure out how to manage their players, their health, the importance of games,'' he said. ''Not just tonight but the three or four we have left after tonight. It's part of the challenge of our league, for sure.''

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