I'll give the Atlanta Hawks some credit. They lost arguably one of their best players to injury early on in the season. They've had lengthy injuries to other key players constantly. They've dealt with the whole Josh Smith wanting to be traded situation. They are playing for what amounts to lame duck owners, and they've had spotty play at best from the point guard position.
Yet, with all that, they sit here at the end of March with a 30-20 record, positioned currently at fifth in the Eastern Conference. Smoke and mirrors, or a tenacious and tough team?
How about a little of both.
At the end of February, it looked like the Hawks were on their way to just bowing out of the playoff race altogether. Between the injuries and the lack of cohesive play on the court, they looked like they'd be mailing it in moving forward.
March rolled around, and the schedule looked to be even tougher than February in regards to the travel and the back-to-back-to-back games to be played. Yet right now, their March record is 10-5, with only four games remaining in the month. Given the way things looked in February, that's not at all unpleasing. So what does it really mean for this up and down team?
The glass is half empty:
The opponents that the Hawks have played this month haven't been the strongest. In fact, four of the five losses this month have come against teams with winning records. The last four wins have come either in overtime or at the buzzer against Cleveland (17-29), New Jersey (16-34), Washington (11-37), and a 4-Overtime thriller against Utah (26-23).
Really, we should have handily beaten the first three teams, and never should have let Utah take us that deep into a game.
In addition, Atlanta went 2-4 on a recent road trip, including losses to Detroit (16-32), and Denver (26-23). Two games that were both very winnable, and would have assured us of a winning road trip.
The glass is half full:
Despite being shorthanded for much of this month, the Hawks have shown tremendous resiliency, even in the close losses. Joe Johnson has been clutch when he needed to be clutch, sinking baskets to keep us in games, or even take us to overtime. Josh Smith has taken over games and lifted the Hawks to victory on a few occasions.
They have also played more road games (27) than any other team in the NBA this season, so some home cooking might do them well in upcoming weeks.
Other than Al Horford, the players dealing with injuries are coming back, and making contributions when needed most. Having a healthy Willie Green, Kirk Hinrich, Marvin Williams and Jason Collins coming off the bench will do a lot to take pressure of Johnson, Smith and the other starters.
Best of all, the Hawks have played well - even in losses - to the teams they will potentially have to face in the playoffs, including the Miami Heat and Chicago Bulls.
So, there it is. It's hard to argue with success when you are sitting 10 games over .500 and fifth in the conference, but it's hard to deny that we've seen this before...and it only lead to early playoff exits. I'm going to look at my glass as half full for right now.
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