The Atlanta Hawks put together a highly impressive victory over the Chicago Bulls on Saturday, and with that victory, the team improved its position in the Eastern Conference standings. However, the big story in the East is the play of the Cleveland Cavaliers, and they are beginning to display signs of a runaway for the top seed.
Here is a look at the Eastern Conference standings as the new week begins:
|1. Cleveland Cavaliers||26||9||.743||-||W7|
|2. Chicago Bulls||22||13||.629||4||L1|
|3. Toronto Raptors||24||15||.615||4||W3|
|4. Atlanta Hawks||23||15||.605||4.5||W2|
|5. Miami Heat||22||15||.595||5||L1|
|6. Indiana Pacers||21||16||.568||6||L1|
|7. Detroit Pistons||21||16||.568||6||W3|
|8. Orlando Magic||20||18||.526||7.5||L1|
|New York Knicks||19||20||.487||9||W1|
Cleveland is rolling
Seven straight wins will do wonders for anyone, but when it comes from the team that was already assumed to sit atop the standings, it serves as confirmation. LeBron James and company are beginning to rattle off victories in the way that many expected and that not-so-coincidentally jives with the return of Kyrie Irving to the lineup. Before the year began, it was "Cleveland and everyone else" and with a +15.0 net rating during this winning streak, the Cavs are rounding into form.
Does anyone want the No. 2 seed?
At the time of this post, the Bulls hold the number two seed, but as the folks at Philips Arena witnessed over the weekend, that spot could be precarious. Chicago might be the most talented group outside of Cleveland, but the Bulls have issues in their own right at the point guard position and with an unsettled frontcourt rotation. Just two games separate six (!) teams in the standings right now, and the Hawks sit in the middle of the pack as the sextet jockeys for position.
Wither the Hornets
Remember when Charlotte was the feel-good story of the league? That goodwill has evaporated for the Hornets, who have lost seven straight games to fall entirely out of the playoff picture. It is, of course, still early to write Steve Clifford's team off entirely, but their defense has fallen off a cliff during the skid (112.1 points allowed per 100) and the talent level really isn't there when compared to the other East "contenders".
What's next for the Hawks?
Mike Budenholzer and his team face an interesting week of competition, as the Hawks will be favored in each of their three contests. A mini-road trip to Charlotte and Milwaukee arrives after a three-day break, and while both teams are at least capable of upsetting Atlanta, the Hawks can probably survive with B+ effort in toppling either opponent. The final game of the week comes against the Brooklyn Nets in Atlanta on Saturday evening and, well, Brooklyn is the story of the league for all the wrong reasons after cleaning house and parting ways with both Billy King and Lionel Hollins. Needless to say, it will be a spectacle when they arrive over the weekend.