As the first week of January comes to a close, the Atlanta Hawks are in first place of the East for the first time since 1997. The Joe Johnson-Josh Smith heyday is now replaced with Jeff Teague, Paul Millsap, and Al Horford.
Not only are the Hawks on top of the east, but are running circles around their opponents in the stronger Western Conference.
The two losses include a two-point, early season loss to the San Antonio Spurs where Tim Duncan had a double-double. Jeff Teague went 2 for 8 in the field and Kyle Korver went 3 for 10 and 1 of 5 from the three point line. And they still only lost by two points.
The Other loss was a fluky 114-109 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers. Kobe Bryant had 28 points and Carlos Boozer had 20 and again, Kyle Korver’s shooting was off and he ended with 8 points.
Three of those eight wins came in a pre-Christmas flurry where they had three games in four days and defeated (in order) the Houston Rockets, Dallas Mavericks and Los Angeles Clippers. All three of those games featured a different high scoring Hawk. Against the Rockets, Korver regained his shot for 22 points. Dennis Schroder took it to the Mavericks for 22 points and DeMare Carroll bested the Clippers for 25 points.
Those three wins came after a trip where they also defeated the Chicago Bulls(holding them to 86 points) and the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The Hawks ability to share the ball helps them confound the stronger Western opponents. Early wins had Paul Millsap and Jeff Teague sharing the top spot for scoring, but the fact that teams have seen Shelvin Mack put up 24 against the Cavs or DeMarre Carroll carve up the defensive minded Clippers. The weapons are too strong for opponents and although the health of that squad leaves fans breathless, the Hawks are as real as it gets.