The Atlanta Hawks completed the Staples Center sweep Saturday night with a come from behind victory over the Los Angeles Clippers. The Hawks are now 2-1 on the trip with two games remaining at Utah and Toronto. We are entering the stretch of the season where just about every game can be categorized as a "must win" for Atlanta. The Hawks are fifth in the Eastern Conference but just 1.5 games behind the Miami Heat and just one game ahead of the red hot Charlotte Hornets.
Saturday's win evened Atlanta's record at 16-16 on the road this season. As we have seen throughout the season, they dug themselves an early hole falling behind by as many as 17 points only to come roaring back. Atlanta outscored the Clippers 82-60 over the final three quarters of Saturday's game and it has been the team's defense that is leading the charge.
The Hawks came into Saturday's game having held three straight opponents to less than 40 percent shooting. The Clippers shot 43 percent on Saturday but with most of the damage coming in the first quarter where they scored 37 points on 58 percent shooting. The Hawks clamped down from there and held Los Angeles to just six field goals in the fourth quarter and 38 percent shooting overall in the second half.
Finally it seems that Atlanta's good fortunes defensively are leading to better opportunities on the offensive end. The Hawks have been the best defensive team in the league since January 1 but have just a 14-15 record to show for it. Atlanta has allowed more than 97 points just once over their last five games and that came against the Warriors in overtime this past Tuesday.
Humphries making an impact early
Mike Budenholzer wasted no time in inserting newly acquired big man Kris Humphries into the mix and he has had a positive impact in his first two games for Atlanta. Humphries has been the first big man off the bench in each of the past two games and has played both the center and power forward slots.
Humphries got off to a fast start in his debut with 14 points and eight rebounds in 22 minutes against the Lakers. His stats weren't as glossy against the Clippers where he finished with four points and one rebound before fouling out in 14 minutes off the bench. However, he gives the team another big body and is a physical player which is something they have been missing on the interior for much of this season.
Humphries is still finding his way on the offensive end of the floor. But, it is pretty clear that Budenholzer is not afraid to use him in the center position and his improved shooting will give Atlanta another option to stretch opposing defenses.