For those who haven’t been paying attention to the Hawks through the first 25 games of this NBA season, here are three things you need to know: 1) They’re better than 5-9 (Falcons); 2) They’re better than 79-83 (Braves); 2) They’re better than the Belk Bowl (Georgia).
They’re 18-7. They just went on the road and crushed the Cleveland Cavaliers 127-98.
Yes, LeBron James played. So did Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love.
The only team missing a starter was the Hawks. They played without their starting point guard, Jeff Teague. That didn't matter because guard Shelvin Mack came off the bench to score 24 points and went 6-for-6 on three-pointers.
Question: Can Mack pass rush, too? Or play center field and hit leadoff? Maybe build a privately funded stadium?
The Hawks trailed the Cavaliers by eight points after the first quarter, then outscored them by 37 over the next three.
Cleveland could've done that without LeBron.
I wrote about the Hawks last week and their transition from an off-court grease fire in September to one of the NBA’s most impressive teams on the court. Here’s a link to that column.
There has been some question whether the Hawks are legitimate contenders because they had beaten mostly losing teams in their first 23 games. But they’ve just beaten the Eastern Conference’s projected two best teams in consecutive games – Chicago at home on Monday (93-86) and now Cleveland. Wednesday’s win was an impressive response against a Cavaliers team that drilled the Hawks in November 127-94.
This difficult five-game stretch continues with road games at Houston and Dallas and then back home against the Los Angeles Clippers. But to this point of the season, the Hawks look legit. They have won 11 of their last 12, own the third best record in the East (one behind conference-leading Toronto, which is 19-6) and seventh best in the NBA (four behind No. 1 Golden State, which is 21-3).
Championships aren’t awarded in mid-December but coach Mike Budenholzer is maximizing the talent on his roster, which is a nice change of pace for local teams.
It’s unfortunate the Hawks are struggling to get on the radar in their own town. Their average (announced) home attendance of 15,345 ranks 25th in the league.
Maybe it’s time to start paying attention.