Why the Atlanta Hawks' Current Winning Streak Is So Impressive
Now 34-8 with a win-loss percentage of .810, the Atlanta Hawks are having one of the best seasons in franchise history. It goes without saying that they're for real, not only in the Eastern Conference, but in the entire NBA. And the numbers back that up.
The Hawks are number four in our power rankings with a total team nERD of 68.9. They're our clear number-one team in the East -- the Toronto Raptors, with a nERD of 63.1, are a distant number two. The Hawks, too, are only separated from our second- and third-ranked teams in the league by a mere 0.9 and 1.6, respectively. So, they may be ranked fourth, but they're oh so close to that two spot (behind the unworldly Warriors and their team nERD of 84.5).
One thing's clear: the Hawks belong with the upper echelon of NBA teams. Their latest winning streak has a lot to do with that.
They've now won 13 straight games. They haven't lost since December 27th, 2014. To say that's impressive would be an understatement, especially when you look at who they've beat and how they've beaten them over that thirteen game span.
Now, some people might look at a 13-game win streak and say to themselves, "Oh, they just had an easy schedule. They probably didn't play anyone significant." However, the Hawks have played anything but an easy schedule.
Here's a chart of their opponents (in the order in which they played them), along with each team's corresponding nERD, where that ranks among the entire league, as well as the team's playoff chances, according to our metrics:
|Opponent||nERD||nERD Rank||Playoff Chances|
|Portland Trail Blazers||64.6||5th||99.9%|
|Los Angeles Clippers||69.8||3rd||98.2%|
As you can see, they did start out against three inferior opponents in the Milwaukee Bucks, the LeBron-less Cleveland Cavaliers and the Utah Jazz.
But then they hit a tough stretch of opponents -- Western Conference powers of Portland, L.A. and Memphis. All three are top 10 in our power rankings, and are just short of sure bets to make the playoffs. Nonetheless, the Hawks defeated each of them by averaging 106 points with a win differential of +9 per game during that stretch. That means, defensively, the Hawks held the trio to 97 points per game -- actually above their league-leading average of 96.3 -- while scoring 2.9 more points per game than their season average of 103.1. It's apparent that the Hawks won this stretch of games with average (for their standards) defense and great offense.
After overcoming each of those three opponents, Atlanta went on to beat an improving Pistons team before facing off against fellow Eastern Conference contender, Washington. What kind of tough win did the Hawks pull out against their division rivals? Oh, they just grinded out a 120-89 you-know-what kicking. The Hawks displayed great offense and great defense once again as they bested both of their season averages.
The Hawks then dispatched the lowly Sixers and rebuilding Celtics in consecutive contests before facing off against another set of formidable opponents -- Toronto and Chicago. In those two games, the Hawks averaged 108.5 points and held their opponents to 94.0 per game. Just another day at the office.
Then yesterday, Atlanta got the best of Detroit for the second time in their 13-game winning streak. They only managed 93 points on an off-shooting night, but held the Pistons to 82 points on 35% shooting. They know how to win with offense, like many NBA teams do, but they also know how to win with defense as those watching that game yesterday got to see for their own eyes.
If you're still not convinced that the Hawks have been really really impressive during this 13-game stretch, just look at where they've played: four games at home and nine on the road. The road games included contests at the Blazers, Clippers, Raptors and Bulls. That's no easy task -- the first three are a combined 60-29 (67.4 win percentage) at home this year, while the Bulls are the only team who has struggled on their own court (12-10).
Can They Keep the Streak Alive?
The Hawks will now be sleeping in their own beds at home for another 11 days for a six-game home stand. So, even with teams like Oklahoma City and Portland set to come into town, the Hawks have a very good chance of keeping the streak alive -- that is, if Coach Mike Budenholzer doesn't rest too many guys on the wrong night.
This year, Atlanta has had streaks of nine and five, in addition to their current win streak, so it would come as no surprise if this extends longer than anticipated.
Clearly the streak is important, but it's also catapulted them to second in our championship odds, with a 12.3% chance of winning the title. Hot-lanta is right.