I can say, with absolute certainty, that the 27-8 Atlanta Hawks are the best Hawks team I have ever seen.
And the cynical Atlanta fan in me already knows there’s no way this ends well. I’ve totally bought into the thought of the Hawks possibly playing in the Eastern Conference Finals, and I’m obsessed with that thought. It could be that the city has nothing else to look forward to, with the Falcons and Braves in rebuilding mode. Or it could be that I’ve never seen the Hawks in the conference finals, nor has anybody else.
But I’ve totally bought into the 2014-15 Atlanta Hawks, and you should, too.
They’ve won 20 of the 22 games they’ve played since Thanksgiving, and they’re doing it with an extremely entertaining brand of basketball. There are no superstars on this Hawks team – not because they couldn’t land any, but because that’s the way this team was built. It’s the sum of the parts that’s making this squad flourish, and it’s been exhilarating to watch.
They make the extra pass. They kick it out to the open man. They make timely 3-pointers and play defense. And, most of all, they beat really good teams, which is completely foreign to Hawks fans.
Gone are the days when the Hawks would hope for 55 wins by beating the lousy teams in the East and getting dominated by the West. The Hawks are 9-0 against the Western Conference since they started their incredible run over the last 22 games.
The city is buying in, and they’ve played only 35 games. Philips Arena is packed – even for weeknight games – and in the three games I’ve attended this season, all have had electric crowds. Lines are long at concession stands, the CNN Center is bustling before and after games and it actually takes a while to leave the arena after games end because the crowds are so big.
And that last one is perhaps the most welcomed thing about this year, surprisingly. I’ve been going to games for many years – I even went to a few during the disastrous 13-69 season of 2004-05, a year when the Falcons almost won more games. After years of empty arenas and indifferent fanbases, it’s a pleasant inconvenience to deal with the large crowds this year.
Allow me to make an appeal to you, the Atlanta resident who has yet to attend a Hawks game this season. You have to go. Seriously. Give it a try on a weeknight, or go this Sunday afternoon when they host the fourth-place Washington Wizards. Tickets are still quite affordable (you can get in the door for $25 on Sunday, and I promise this team is worth every penny), and the Hawks offer frequent family deals that will get you 4 tickets and 4 Chick-Fil-A meals (to be cashed in at a later date, outside the stadium) for less than $50 total. Essentially, you’re paying like $5 a ticket to watch the hottest team in the solar system.
What’s even better about this run is that the Hawks couldn’t have chosen a better time to start it. Atlanta is a big basketball city, but they tend to root for other teams – specifically, the Lakers, Knicks, Heat, Bulls, Celtics and Cavaliers. Of those teams, only the Bulls look like a franchise that might contend with the Hawks for a conference title this year.
Knowing how rare it is to see all of those traditional powers stinking at the same time, the Hawks have a real chance to unite the city toward one cause. I’ve never seen anything in Atlanta sports history like the Falcons’ 2012 playoff run, when the city rallied toward a single team and went all-in on a championship. That could realistically happen again with the Hawks.
They deserve it, and they deserve your attention. And yes, I totally understand that this could all end with the most epic Atlanta Sports Moment of all-time.
I’m still going to enjoy the ride right up until it crashes.
Image: Mark Matcho/ESPN.com