Always the bridesmaid never the bride, the Atlanta Hawks have ridden a five-game win streak to third place in the East. Outside of the Clippers’ resurgent six-game wins-pile, the surprising Hawks are outgunning opponents and competitors in a subdued hush too reminiscent of the Spurs brand they’re built upon.
The quiet success has been possible through Jeff Teague’s improved scoring numbers that include a career high 17.8 points per and a 48.9/42.2/88.8 shooting spread that puts him within inches of the highly coveted 50/40/90 club. Even in this regard, not much noise has been drummed up about Teague’s numbers. Not to mention he’s the owner of the league’s 19th-best PER, 8th-best amongst point guards.
By way of a Spursian style of offense, involving hot-potato ball movement and a barrage of catch-and-shoot scenarios, the Hawks are currently scoring more per game (103.9) than the offensively venerated Blazers (103.4) or their should-be superior Eastern foes, the Chicago Bulls (102.6) and LeBron’s Posse (103.1). Only Dallas, Toronto, and the Clippers have a better full-package offense. Think about that. They’re hooping on one side of the court better than the superteam Spurs, the Curry-powered Warriors, and the point guard stable known as the Suns.
Of course, there’s still much room for improvement in terms of getting Al Horford to gel with everyone else. And, where the Hawks were expected to be above standard – defense – they’re only passable. Their Defensive Rating (103.3) is good for 14th.
Mind you, their current streak is made up of wins over the Nets, Pels, Hornets, Celtics, and Heat (the best of the bunch) but they’ve played tightly against the Raptors season long, lost by two points to their Western Conference mold, the Spurs, and have dominated Miami so far. In a criminally talentless East, it stands to reason that they won’t drop any lower than fifth in their respective conference.
Nothing about this team screams Eastern Conference Finals. But, much like they proved last season in a nail-biting seven-game series against the highly favored Pacers, they have the makings of a true underdog. If their winning keeps up, the term might soon become: the underhawk.