The Hawks capped off a 3-1 week by blowing out the Orlando Magic in Philips Arena, ending a successful week. After losing badly to the Miami Heat, and carrying a large deficit into the fourth quarter on Thursday night against the Houston Rockets, the week could have easily gotten out of control. However, the Hawks responded well with a late-game surge against Houston and a full game of impressive play against Orlando.
Although nothing happened that drastically changes the Hawks’ playoff chances, there were still some developments that could affect the playoff landscape. As other teams around Atlanta struggled, and Tim Hardaway Jr. exploded offensively, the team had a successful week. The East standings are still confusing as of right now (especially for teams 2-5), but Atlanta looked fairly stable.
It’s interesting to compare the Hawks’ performance this week (and over the past few weeks) with the other playoff teams in the Eastern Conference. Cleveland has been famously struggling recently, while Toronto has slumped as well. Atlanta is currently tied with the Raptors for fourth-place in the conference, and several teams’ position will most likely change again before now and the end of the season.
Other teams, like the Wizards and the Celtics, have taken advantage of Toronto’s woes to creep up in the standings. Boston currently holds the second spot, while Washington has completely rebounded from its poor start to hold the third seed as of this writing. It’s entirely conceivable that the Hawks could rise a spot or two in the standings as well, although an increasingly difficult future schedule could make this difficult.
This week, the Hawks mostly helped their case, with a bad loss in Miami being the lone blemish. Atlanta beat the Knicks in a four-overtime game to start the week on Sunday afternoon, and looked flat and uninspired (most likely at least partially due to fatigue) on Wednesday against the Heat. Given the course of those two games, the result of the Houston and Orlando matchups is encouraging, showing an energy and enthusiasm that was lacking earlier.
Any discussion about this week would be incomplete without mentioning Tim Hardaway Jr.’s offensive explosion. Hardaway scored 54 points over the last two games, and was a key player in the comeback win in Houston. Regardless of whether or not this level of scoring is sustainable, seeing these performances speaks volumes about both his potential and the Hawks’ player development. If Hardaway can provide even a close level of this scoring in the playoffs, Atlanta becomes a much more threatening team.
With so many teams in the East switching positions recently, it’s hard to gauge just where Atlanta will fall in April. Toronto is better than they’ve been recently, and teams like Boston and Washington could potentially fall off slightly. As time passes and Atlanta’s schedule gets harder, the East should become more stable.
This week, the Hawks will play only three games. After playing the Jazz on Monday and Nuggets on Wednesday (both in Atlanta), the team will head west to play the Sacramento Kings on Friday. Utah is easily the best team on this slate, although Denver and Sacramento have shown the ability to play well at times, too.