This may be a newsflash to most fans of the Hawks and NBA in general, but the Hawks are playing well. They’re playing really well.
On Jan. 12, the Hawks lost Al Horford for the rest of the regular season at least. I wrote that they were in a lot of trouble. And common sense would suggest that they would be dead in the water when their captain on the floor was done for the year.
But they’ve run down the Miami Heat — yes, those Miami Heat — and are now tied for first place in the Southeast Division with a 16-6 record.
So, yeah, they’ve been alright without Horford.
Since Horford went down, the Hawks have won nine of 11 to keep pace with the best of the Eastern Conference. If you’re wondering how this miraculous recovery has happened, I’m giving all the credit to one man.
The Hawks’ head coach gets his props from me for keeping this team together and maintaining their focus when they could have bowed out. It’s hard to keep chugging along without your best player, but the Hawks never lost a step. It’s amazing, really.
But they aren’t out of the water yet. A much tougher stretch of games lies ahead — the Lakers, Heat, 76ers, Bulls and Trail Blazers (their best win in the last 11 games, arguably) are all on the schedule in February.
If the Hawks continue to hold it together through this difficult month, we could be talking about a really good team. If they’re still sitting in first place on March 1, we can start to ponder bigger and better things.
But even if they’ve only been winning because of inferior talent, it’s been a great run. The Hawks just came off a five-game road trip where they went 4-1, their best road trip since a 5-0 trip in December 1968 (according to broadcaster Bob Rathbun).
There’s always the chance that this run from 5-3 to 16-6 has been a result of playing playing lesser talent.
But what if the Hawks really are that good, and everyone is lesser talent?