The Atlanta Hawks slip slightly in this week’s NBA Power Rankings roundup. Atlanta held steady in a couple of the rankings but dipped in others after a pair of losses to the Charlotte Hornets and the New York Knicks.
Even with two losses this week, ESPN.com’s Marc Stein keeps Atlanta at No. 5 in his rankings.
The Hawks awoke Sunday ranked No. 1 in defensive efficiency, ninth in PPG allowed and feeling pretty proud of what they're doing on D because they're also playing at a top-five pace, which naturally means more possessions to defend. Pride then turned to anger when Atlanta looked so lackluster in a Madison Square Garden matinee defeat to the Knicks, who have actually won four in a row at home but, according to Paul Millsap, shouldn't have caused the trouble they did.
Dwight Howard got injured, got ejected (at a very inopportune time) and grabbed more than 20 rebounds per 36 minutes last week. The Hawks have their second two-game losing streak of the season, scoring just 96 points per 100 possessions in weekend losses in Charlotte and New York, with Kent Bazemore and Dennis Schroder combining to shoot 1-for-16 from 3-point range. As usual, the bench was better than the starters on Sunday, but not good enough to recover from the Hawks' second double-digit deficit of the season.
Just when you're ready to anoint them, they have a pair of losses with the Hornets and then the MSG Sunday outing -- a tough game to evaluate for any team. Still, they continue to have the second-best defense. There's way more right with this team than wrong.
Part of Atlanta’s success has been it’s bench — it has the most efficient scoring bench in the NBA so far this season (using points per possession). Well, at least until the entire team sleepwalked through a day game Sunday in New York. At the heart of that bench has been the play of Thabo Sefalosha, who is having his best season in the NBA, efficient on offense and playing fantastic defense.
Finally, Atlanta slips three spots to No. 7 in Jeremy Woo’s rankings for Sports Illustrated.
Given how effective the Hawks have been on whole, it kind of makes you wonder if Al Horford got a little bit too much credit the last few years. Paul Millsap remains outstanding, and Mike Budenholzer’s acumen and system have facilitated the transition. However you want to cut it, Atlanta comes out looking great.