Coming into this season, nobody could have predicted what the Atlanta Hawks were about to do. People figured the Hawks would improve with the return of Al Horford from a torn pectoral muscle, but the top seed in the Eastern Conference? Setting a new franchise record in wins? Not even the biggest Hawks homers could have seen this coming.
Atlanta won its franchise-record 58th game on Tuesday night in impressive fashion, blowing the doors off the fading Phoenix Suns in a 96-69 victory. As usual, the Hawks did it with balanced offense and strong defense. Four of the five Atlanta starters scored in double figures, with three of those four putting up 16 points.
One of those four was second-year big man Mike Muscala, who started in the place of the injured Paul Millsap. Muscala put up 16 points on 7-of-8 shooting while also grabbing seven rebounds and notching four steals. Meanwhile, DeMarre Carroll had 16 points on 8-of-9 shooting.
The Hawks are now 58-19, a whopping eight games ahead of the second-place Cleveland Cavaliers. Atlanta is 34-5 at home and unsurprisingly the owners of the best average point differential in East at +5.7, which is 0.6 points ahead of Cleveland.
Questions still remain about whether or not the Hawks can get to the NBA Finals, but for now, we must appreciate what this team has done throughout this season. Atlanta has exceeded even the wildest expectations, and head coach Mike Budenholzer is one of the top candidates for Coach of the Year. Next we’ll see if the Hawks can get to 60 wins.