The Atlanta Hawks scored a big win in Cleveland and have won four straight games heading into tonight’s matchup in Miami. That signature win over the Cavs snapped an 11-game losing streak to Cleveland and their 7-2 start is beginning to turn heads around the league as they climb in this week’s power rankings
The Hawks break into the Top 5 of Marc Stein’s rankings over at ESPN.com.
One great game in November obviously doesn't mean much, but the impact Dwight Howard had in Cleveland with his 17 boards was a new look for the Hawks against the Cavs ... after the reigning champs had won the teams' previous 11 meetings. You certainly aren't wrong to say it's early, but you also have to start considering the possibility that the retooled Hawks, relying so heavily on Howard and young Dennis Schroder, got it very right with their bold changes.
The Hawks got their first win over the Cavs in 12 tries on Tuesday and do seem to be more qualified to not get swept by the champs in the playoffs. They have a healthier Thabo Sefolosha (who ranks third among non-Clippers in raw plus-minus), better rim protection, and better defensive rebounding. They've had the best bench in the league (Sefolosha hasn't been the only big plus) so far, with an aggregate bench NetRtg of plus-19.2 points per 100 possessions.
The Hawks have won four straight, including wins over Houston and the Cavaliers' first dip. They are 10th in offense and 2nd in defense. Maybe next time instead of worrying about Dennis Schroder or Dwight Howard, we should just trust Mike Budenholzer. Let's all write that down as they move up five spots.
Kurt Helin also places the Hawks at No. 5 in his rankings at Pro Basketball Talk.
They handed Cleveland its lone loss this season thanks to a stifling defense (second in the NBA), holding the Cavs to less than 40 percent shooting. The other thing the Hawks have going for them this season is fantastic bench play so far this season, statistically the best in the NBA. Best test on the schedule this week is at Charlotte.
Jeremy Woo of Sports Illustrated’s The Crossover moves Atlanta up three spots this week to No. 4.
Atlanta is the only team that’s beaten the Cavs and has been held under 100 points just once. Even Tim Hardaway Jr. (career-high 12.3 ppg) has taken on new life. Sorry I ever doubted these guys.