The Atlanta Hawks are 3-3 over their past six games. This makes them 22-3 over their past 25 games, which is a winning percentage of .880, which, if carried over a full season, would be 72-10, which would match the Chicago Bulls of 1995-96 for the best record in NBA history. Let’s not lose sight of that, OK?
Since Thanksgiving, the Hawks are 36-5. That’s a winning percentage of .878, which means they’ve been playing at an obscenely high level for 2 1/2 months. They lead the Eastern Conference by 6 1/2 games over Toronto. They’re 9 1/2 ahead of Chicago, 10 ahead of Cleveland. Given that only 28 regular-season games remain, the Hawks would have to collapse not to secure the No. 1 seed. They won’t collapse.
As mentioned a time or two, we Atlantans are conditioned to await the dropping of the other shoe. When one of our teams is playing well, we say, “This is Atlanta — it’ll never last.” I’ve seen too much of these Hawks to believe this winning won’t last. I expect them to play for the NBA championship.
I offer this as a little pick-me-up after last night’s doings in Boston. The Hawks blew a 14-point lead and lost to a not-very-good opponent on a last-second shot by Evan Turner, who was so ineffective against them as an Indiana Pacer in the playoffs last season that he didn’t play in Games 6 or 7. Wednesday’s was a crummy loss, yes, but the Hawks haven’t had many of those, and even the winning coach was disinclined to make much of it.
“For 47 minutes, 59.8 seconds, we were the losing team,” the Celtics’ Brad Stevens told reporters. Of the Hawks, he offered this: “I don’t think they played their best game. They’ve been on the road for three games; they’ve had a miraculous couple of months of basketball. They missed some shots late, and we were fortunate.”
The NBA’s regular season lasts six months. (The playoffs last forever.) There will be lesser nights. The beauty of these Hawks is that they’ve had so few lesser nights. They don’t play again for eight days. (Not counting the All-Star Game, of which four of their starting five will partake.) They’ll rest and recalibrate. They’ll be fine.