The Hawks have won six straight games for the first time since the 2016-2017 season. That currently slots them as the 7th seed in the Eastern Conference, and they are just one game out of the 5th seed and two games away from the 4th seed.
Of course, everyone wants to praise new head coach Nate McMillan, who is now 8-1 as the Hawks head coach this season. He’s undoubtedly deserving of some of the credit; Atlanta has become a juggernaut in the fourth quarter since he took over after being the league’s worst fourth-quarter team under Lloyd Pierce. However, McMillan and the Hawks have also finally gotten some help from their most significant offseason acquisition, Danilo Gallinari.
Travis Schlenk inked Gallinari to a three-year deal this past offseason with an AAV north of $20 million — the largest AAV ever handed to a player without an All-Star appearance. And for a few months, it looked like a colossal waste of money.
Gallinari began his Hawks career injured. He played in just two of the first four games before missing nearly a month with an ankle injury, and when he did return, he looked like a shell of himself. In his first 17 games back, Gallo shot an abysmal 34.3% from the field while averaging just over 10 points and 2 rebounds per game. Once revered as a poor man’s Dirk Nowitzki, Gallinari looked much more like a washed old man with weights on his ankles at your local YMCA. However, that all changed on a magical night against Boston.
The 6’10” Italian couldn’t miss, setting a franchise record for threes in a game, canning 10 of them in just 12 attempts, and ending the game with 38 points. A few more poor shooting performances followed, but eventually, Gallinari would find that touch again in the Hawks’ final game before the All-Star break against Orlando, and this time, he wouldn’t let it go.
Over Atlanta’s last five games (all wins), Gallo has managed to shoot 53.8% from the floor and over 50% from behind the arc, averaging 21.4 points per game and 6.4 rebounds. And the best part about those scoring numbers is that very few of those baskets have come easy. Gallinari is creating his own offense and hitting tough shots when the team needs them most — a staple of his entire career, but something Atlanta fans have yet to become accustomed to.
I imagine that will change moving forward. Because I have Youtube TV, I’m forced to watch Hawks games with the opposing teams’ broadcast. One thing that was overwhelmingly clear last night against the Rockets was that their announcers were used to Gallinari torching them with his shooting, which isn’t surprising given he has spent the bulk of his career in the Western Conference. They couldn’t stop gushing about his soft touch and shot-making ability. Now, Atlanta fans are getting their first taste of it, and the results are speaking for themselves. The Hawks can beat anyone in The Association when Gallinari is knocking down shots as he has been recently.
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