Hawks show stifling Defense against the Indiana Pacers. Scott Cunningham/NBAE/GettyImages
The Atlanta Hawks are silently returning to the championship form that we saw from this organization for the majority of last season. When you have the record setting pace that the Golden State Warriors and San Antonio Spurs are playing at and the social media antics of LeBron James, the Hawks are starting to fly under the radar and that’s exactly the way we like it. The Atlanta Hawks currently hold the third spot in the Eastern Conference with 9 games remaining in the season. After the All-Star break, the Hawks lost 3 in a row but since the losing streak, the team turned it on and are winners of 12 of their last 15 games. A lot of Atlanta’s recent success can be contributed to three pivotal keys.
1. Kris Humphries Signing
Kris Humphries lay-up in his debut against the Los Angeles Lakers
After the Atlanta Hawks defeated the Charlotte Hornets, the Hawks were looking to add another rebounding option to the roster and signed 11-year NBA veteran Kris Humphries after clearing waivers from the Phoenix Suns. The addition of Kris Humphries and his tough minded presence to be physical and stick his nose in the paint to get much needed rebounds. Since his signing, the Hawks have been a better team overall.
2. Tim Hardaway Jr.’s Emergence:
Mike Scott to Tim Hardaway Jr.
The emergence of Tim Hardaway Jr. and how he has brought a spark to the roster by his elevated level of play the last few weeks. From the moment Atlanta acquired Hardaway Jr. from New York, I thought he was a steal and could be a star in the making in head coach Mike Budenholzer’s offensive scheme.
However, his start in Atlanta didn’t go as planned as many expected and he was sent down to the Developmental League. I must admit I was discouraged for him and lost the original faith I had in him before the season. Boy was I wrong…. Over the last week, he’s averaged 17.4 points per game coming off the bench and even earned a start against the Denver Nuggets due to a Kent Bazemore thigh bruise.
3. Atlanta’s Defense:
Atlanta Hawks causing issues for Milwaukee’s offense
Although the other two factors were important, the reason why the Atlanta Hawks are emerging as a team to beat as the playoffs approach is the re-emergence of their defense. It helped push Atlanta to the number 1 seed in the Eastern Conference last season. Since the break, the Hawks are notableinto several top 10 categories defensively In Opponents Points Per Game, Opponents Effective Field Goal%, Opponent Shooting, Opponents 1st Quarter Points Per Game, and Opposing Turnovers Per Game, whichthey are ranked in the top 5 of the NBA!!
Atlanta displaying their stout defense in their win against the Indiana Pacers
The Atlanta Hawks are stellar in many defensive categories.I only mentioned the statistics where they were ranked in the top 5, however, the Hawks have at least a Top 10 ranking in 17 defensive categories. Overall, the Hawks are beginning to play at a level similar to January and February of the 2015 season where the Hawks only suffered 2 losses during that stretch. This is a very exciting time for Hawks fans with the playoffs literally around the corner. I will say if the Hawks continues to improve and play at this current rate; the Atlanta Hawks will be right back in the Eastern Conference Finals again this year with an even more seasoned and experienced team.
Phil Veasley is a resident of Atlanta who has been a die-hard Hawks fan since 2005. He is Civil Engineer student at KSU. Currently, Phil writes for Atlanta Hawks Talk while also managing all ATLSportsHQ sites. He can be reached on Twitter at @_ATLPhil