The Hawks looked like a bonafide contender through the first five games, blowing out the Bulls, Grizzles, and Pistons before finally losing a nail-biter on the road to the Brooklyn Nets. But even in defeat, the Hawks looked competitive against one of the premier teams in the Eastern Conference, and then two days later, they beat that same Nets team by 18 points away from home.
Unfortunately, that momentum hasn’t carried over to their last two games, as they’ve dropped close contests to the lowly Cavs and Knicks in identical fashion. Both times they led by 15 points midway through the third quarter before totally collapsing on each side of the court.
It’s fair to say the hype the Hawks began to generate after just five games was a little pre-mature. They certainly are not the cream of the crop in the Eastern Conference as things stand today, but I don’t think people’s vision about what this team could be by the end of the season is incorrect. That is… if their vision was that the Hawks could compete with anyone in the Eastern Conference come playoff time.
Looking at Atlanta’s past two games, many of the same issues that prevented them from being a winning team last season showed themselves. In particular, Atlanta’s second unit has been dreadful. Kevin Huerter and Bogdan Bogdanović haven’t played up to their standards. However, at least they are providing Lloyd Pierce with something. The rest of the bench might as well not even touch the floor.
The defense has also been a significant issue. There have been way too many easy looks given up in the paint and on the perimeter. New York, who was barely averaging over 100 points coming into Monday night, lit up Atlanta for 113 points while shooting over 50% from the field. That’s unacceptable and is not a sign of a team that will contend in a much more competitive Eastern Conference.
With that being said, this is a pretty battered Atlanta Hawks team. They are without Danilo Gallinari, who will add plenty of scoring power off the bench, and they are also missing Kris Dunn and Rajon Rondo, who bring more playmaking and defense to the second unit. Not to mention, Atlanta’s sixth overall selection Onyeka Okongwu has yet to even make his NBA debut. A lot of the Hawks issues will look a lot more fixable when these guys return.
So did we overrate the Hawks a bit after five games? Possibly. But I think discounting that they can become a contender in the Eastern Conference is much more pre-mature than the other way around.
This has been a good start for the Hawks. Every time they take the floor, there is another positive to point to. It was always going to take a little time for this team to learn how to win together, and the injuries have not helped. However, the Hawks have too much offensive firepower to count out. If they can figure out how to hold it together defensively, they’ll be able to play with anyone. These past two games do not change that.