The Hawks are beginning to separate themselves from the bunched up Eastern Conference after struggling through the first 25 games of the season. A little over a week ago, they were sitting outside the top eight spots in the East, but after stringing together 6 straight wins, Atlanta is eyeing the top spot in the East. Atlanta now sits one game behind Cleveland that is coming off two straight road losses to the Warriors and Blazers and seem to have a little bit of a Christmas hangover.
Atlanta heads to Indiana to take on a much improved Pacers squad. Indiana (17-12) has re surged into a contending force in large part to the return of Paul George. George is putting up MVP type numbers in his return year after suffering that gruesome injury in a USA basketball exhibition. He is averaging close to 25 points a game to go along with 7.7 rebounds and 4 assists per game. Indiana does not have a ton of talent outside of George, but George is more than capable of putting this team on his back for a night as he has done multiple times this season.
The Hawks are coming off a throttling of the New York Knicks, in which they put on an offensive showcase. Atlanta ran away with the game after falling by behind by as many as 16 in the first half. They outscored the Knicks 57-35 in the second half on their way to a 117-98 victory. Once again 5 players were in double digits for the Hawks including two off the bench. Mike Scott scored 18 points on 7-8 shooting and has really played a significant role off the bench in recent games. Dennis Schroder also scored in double digits off the bench and continues to make his case as a 6th Man of the Year candidate. When the Atlanta bench plays like this, they are nearly impossible to beat.
Atlanta travels to Houston to play their second game of a back-to-back after their game with Indiana before heading back home. The Hawks schedule gets very favorable for about a 10-game stretch following their matchup with Houston. If the Hawks can sweep this two-game road trip, there is no telling when this winning streak could end.