The Atlanta Hawks have won 11 of their last 12 games and sent another statement to the rest of the NBA Wednesday night with a big 127-98 blowout win over the Cleveland Cavaliers. Here are a couple of thoughts from the win.
Stop worrying about the Hawks strength of schedule
During Atlanta's recent nine-game winning streak, many experts from around the league took great pains to dismiss the team's success. Teams can't determine the order they face opponents. All they can do is face the task at hand and the Hawks have done that throughout the early part of this season. Good teams don't lose to teams with losing records. Atlanta is a good team and everyone around the league should recognize that after two straight wins over Chicago and Cleveland.
Do I expect Atlanta to play .720 ball the rest of the way? No, but I do expect this team to compete night in and night out no matter the opponent. The Hawks under Mike Budenholzer play the game the right way. They play together, share the ball and compete for a common cause. Teams that do that are successful. There will be bumps in the road. There will be shooting slumps, injuries and more adversity. Its a long season but the Hawks appear to be a team that is built for the rigors of the regular season.
Atlanta already has 18 wins under their belt and they don't recount at the end of the season to see which of those should be termed as impressive.
Next Man Up
If the Hawks learned anything from last season it was that they needed to be better prepared to handle injuries. While many dismissed Atlanta's bench unit coming into the season, the group has performed well overall. Wednesday night was another example as Jeff Teague was forced to miss his first game of the season due to a strained hamstring.
Teague in many respects is having an All-Star caliber season and came into Wednesday's game leading the team in scoring. Dennis Schröder made his first career start in place of Teague and finished with 10 points and a game-high 10 assists. Shelvin Mack didn't play in Monday's win over the Bulls but hit six three-pointers and finished with a career-high 24 points.