The Atlanta Hawks were in the holiday spirit and it was the season of giving as they sought to bless their fans with a bevy of gifts – 19 of them to be exact. It was the day after Christmas when the Hawks began their franchise-best 19-game winning streak and it lasted until Monday night thanks to the New Orleans Pelicans, who defeated them 115-100.
So how did the Hawks respond to the NBA snubbing them on Christmas Day by not making them apart of the extravaganza? They proceeded to begin the sixth longest winning streak in the history of the sport (tied with a few other teams). Now of course the league didn’t know Atlanta would amount to this good of a product. In fact, the Hawks haven’t played on December 25th since 1989 (their record on this day is 9-11).
Did anyone expect them to be good this season? Not quite. I’m not sure many people expected them to be top-tier in the Eastern Conference. What Mike Budenholzer has done with this team makes him the runaway favorite for Coach of the Year. He has exceeded expectations to the superlative degree and this team looks like they can actually make a run in the postseason.
“I don’t think we were expected to win every game. We were definitely taking it a game at a time. But it’s great. I’m proud of our team and what we’ve been able to do. We’ve been playing high-quality basketball for the last two months really. Now that it’s over, we’ll reflect on what we did and get ready for tomorrow,” Al Hortford said after the loss to the Pelicans.
The Hawks were able to put themselves back on the map during this streak and the entire NBA was put on notice. It included significant wins over teams like Cleveland, Portland, Memphis, Washington, the Los Angeles Clippers, Toronto, and Chicago. These elite teams came into the season more favored to win the NBA title than the Hawks, but as of right now, Atlanta has the second best record in the league.
“The Spurs of the East” is what many people are calling them. Sixth in the league in scoring, fourth in field-goal percentage, first in three-point shooting, second in assists and third in point-differential are stats that would warrant this high degree of praise and adulation. It also helps being the NBA’s third-best defensive team.
Since the 1979-80 season, nine NBA teams have won titles. There’s no question that parity contributes to popularity in sports and the new CBA aspires to create equal opportunity for all markets. When this season began, the Hawks’ odds of winning it all were 100-1. As of today, they are 13-2. They have three All-Stars, who will be playing for their coach in the game in Madison Square Garden in a few weeks.
Will they become favorites to win the East any time soon? Maybe not. But one thing is for certain; this team is making a loud, “A-town stomp-ish” statement.