March 11, 2012; Sacramento, CA, USA; Atlanta Hawks head coach Larry Drew instructs his team from the sideline against the Sacramento Kings in the second quarter at the Power Balance Pavilion. The Hawks defeated the Kings 106-99. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-US PRESSWIRE
Despite a 4-9 record during the month of February, the Atlanta Hawks enter tonight's game in Denver just 2.5 games behind Orlando for third place in the Eastern Conference. Atlanta will wrap up its last significant road trip of the regular tomorrow in Los Angeles and will play the bulk of it remaining games at Philips Arena. First a look at the current standings entering Tuesday.
|1. Chicago Bulls||35-9||--|
|2. Miami Heat||32-9||2.0|
|3. Orlando Magic||27-15||7.0|
|4. Philadelphia 76ers||25-17||9.0|
|5. Indiana Pacers||23-16||9.5|
|6. Atlanta Hawks||24-17||9.5|
|7. Boston Celtics||22-19||11.5|
|8. Milwaukee Bucks||18-24||16.0|
As you can see, Atlanta has one more win than Indiana and also took the season series giving them the tie breaker over the Pacers. Atlanta is even with Philadelphia in the loss column and has more than held their own against the Magic of late. If they Hawks can avoid anymore injuries and put another solid stretch of wins together then home court advantage in the East is still well within reach.
Including tonight, Atlanta has 25 games remaining with only 10 of those coming away from Philips Arena. Currently the Hawks are 12-11 on the road and 12-6 at home. With the trade deadline looming I think this is more than relevant given that the Hawks may decide not to make any moves and simply try to finish strong and roll the dice on getting Al Horford back in the playoffs.
If things go perfect Atlanta still won't be favored to crash the Eastern Conference Finals but as long as they avoid Miami or Chicago in the first round they will have a somewhat legit shot to once again crash the second round. Especially if they can remain somewhat healthy down the stretch.