When your ESPN.com “results” page looks like this, it’s hard to find fault in anything your hometown basketball team is doing.
But if your hometown team is the Atlanta Hawks, you’re always waiting for the other shoe to drop.
Yet at 33-8, the Hawks just completed a magical first half of the 2014-15 season. They went 10-2 against the Western Conference – largely believed to be the better collection of NBA teams.
No team is allowing fewer points per game, on average. The Hawks have won 26 of their last 28 games, and have yet to lose in 2015. They’ve won 12 straight road games; ESPN Stats and Info says that has only been done 10 times previously, and all 10 teams made the playoffs. Seven of those 10 teams have made the NBA Finals, and four have won the whole thing.
What’s more, they’ve done it while playing interesting basketball. Watch five minutes of Hawks basketball and your faith in the sport will be restored. It isn’t rare to see the Hawks pass six or seven times before anyone takes a shot, and when you consider they only get 24 seconds to shoot, that’s astounding.
While I may be slightly partisan toward the Hawks (duh), I’d argue that no fanbase deserves a winner more than the one in Atlanta. We’ve dealt with years of bad basketball – awful fundamentals and selfish play were the norm. Even worse, fans of the home team were frequently drowned out by folks who came to cheer on the visitors.
Pair that with the disappointments of the other teams in town, and I’d say this run by the Hawks was long overdue.
Few teams in NBA history have made as monumental an improvement year over year as the Hawks from 2013-14 to 2014-15, especially since the Hawks didn’t make many changes in the offseason. They just bought into the system and have been executing it to perfection ever since.
“We had a little taste of success in the playoffs last year and we thought we let Atlanta down because we had the series (against the Indiana Pacers),” said Hawks guard Jeff Teague in a Basketball Insiders report. “Watching the rest of the series go on, the Pacers played the Wizards, it ate at all of us. We thought we should have been there. We wanted to come back this year with more effort, hungrier on the defensive end, and right now we’re doing that.”
They still have a long way to go in this regular season. The Hawks start the second half with seven straight home games, but they’ll have a tough six-game Western road trip in March that’ll be a big test. They’re crushing it, but they need to stay healthy. Even though their depth has been a big story so far this season, if the injury bug bites, they could quickly fall back to Earth.
But Hawks fans should enjoy the second half of the regular season because as soon as the playoffs begin, the bar will be raised.
If you’re not onboard with this team yet, what are you waiting for?
Photo: AP/Chris Carlson