Hawks end the first half strong, but the path to a top-six seed remains bleak

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The Hawks finished a lackluster first half to the 2021-2022 season on a high note with a 130-109 victory over the lowly Magic. It was a game where everyone was able to get involved offensively. Bogdan Bogdanovic led the way with 23 points, and seven different Hawks scored in double-digits, as Atlanta won their second game in a row and their eleventh in their last sixteen.

The win closed the gap between the Hawks and several of the teams in front of them in the Eastern Conference standings. They are now just a half-game behind the Hornets for the 9th seed, three games behind the Nets for 8th, 4.5 games behind the Raptors, and five games behind the Celtics for a top-six seed, which should be the ultimate goal for Nate McMillan’s squad, avoiding the play-in tournament. But with only 24 games remaining on the season, it will be a tall order for a team that’s yet to find any consistency all year.

The promising news is the Hawks are finally starting to simmer. They also have the sixth-easiest remaining schedule, according to Tankothon. Unfortunately, most of the teams in front of them are either on fire or will be receiving substantial boosts from incoming players acquired at the trade deadline.

The Nets are on an abysmal slide, losing eight of their last ten, but that won’t last once Kevin Durant and Ben Simmons are inserted into the lineup.

The Celtics are winners of nine of their last ten, and the Raptors have won eight over that stretch. One or both of them will likely cool down, but enough for the Hawks to overcome 4+ games in the standings? That remains to be seen. And ahead of them? It will be nearly impossible for Atlanta to chase any of the top-five seeds down.

Philadelphia is 6.5 games ahead of the Hawks and will be adding James Harden to their lineup. The Cavs may be new to the top of the standings this season, but anyone who has watched them knows they aren’t slowing down. The Bucks, Bulls, and Heat? They are 7.5+ games up on the Hawks with 24 games to play. Atlanta doesn’t have a chance at catching up to them.

Like most Hawks fans, I’m optimistic about the direction this team is heading as the season wanes. Unfortunately, this has the feeling of a hole that is too deep to dig out of in so little time. That doesn’t mean the Hawks can’t make a late-season run, much like the one they had last year, but this time, that run may have to begin in the play-in tournament.

 

 

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