The Hawks head west for six games, but there’s no cause for alarm

The Hawks played a West opponent Monday. They scored 130 points. (David Goldman/AP photo)

The Atlanta Hawks are about to head west for six games, and not long ago such an excursion would have had us expecting something approaching the worst — meaning 1-5. But we’ve seen enough of these Hawks to know that nothing is apt to faze them, and the only way they’ll return from this trip 1-5 is if Mike Budenholzer chooses to rest his starters for all six games.

The Hawks have already proved their point against the Western Conference, long considered the NBA’s stronger side. They’re 18-4 against Western teams, and here’s the stunning part: Of the eight West clubs that would qualify for the playoffs if they began today, the Hawks are 11-2, having beaten four of those eight on the road.

The Hawks played a West opponent Monday. They scored 130 points. (David Goldman/AP photo)

The Hawks played a West opponent Monday. They scored 130 points. (David Goldman/AP photo)

We’ve already seen that Budenholzer isn’t afraid to lose a game in the pursuit of rest. (That’s what happened in Philadelphia on Saturday.) What will be fascinating is whether this coach cares about finishing with the league’s best record, which would ensure that the Hawks have the homecourt edge in every playoff series including the finals.

Given that they hold an 11-game lead over second-place Cleveland with 19 to play, we can assume that the Hawks will be the No. 1 seed in the East. But the loss in Philly dropped them a half-game behind Golden State for No. 1 overall, and here we ask: Given that it’s only March, does a coach try to game-plan for June?

My guess — and it’s just a guess — is that Budenholzer won’t make a big push to finish ahead of the Warriors. So long as the Hawks are reasonably healthy, it hasn’t much mattered where they’ve played. But I would be surprised if he picks next Wednesday’s game in Oakland as a time to rest anybody. I’d imagine the Hawks wouldn’t mind testing themselves against Golden State again. (They aced the first one, you’ll recall.)

A six-game trip sounds daunting, but it’s really not. The first four stops — at Denver, at Phoenix, at the Lakers, at Sacramento — won’t involve an opponent that figures to make the playoffs. (Of that group, only the Suns are above .500.) Then comes Golden State, and then a game against Oklahoma City. In sum, a big finish to a long trek.

But don’t sleep on the Hawks’ first game back at Philips Arena. They play San Antonio on Sunday, March 22. That’s the one hurdle these made-in-the-Spurs’-image Hawks haven’t cleared. They’re 0-3 against San Antonio the past two seasons. I’m guessing the starters won’t be resting that day, either.

Reader Comments 0

12 comments
GwinnettFred
GwinnettFred

To be honest, I am more interested in Brooklyn and Cleveland than the Hawks at this stage.


The Hawks will have the #1 seed in the east and it doesn't matter if that's with 65 wins, 60 or 55. Of course I want them to win, but it's not overly important at this stage.


Brooklyn, who's 1st round pick the Hawks have to swap in the draft, needs to keep plunging. Currently, they would have the 9th pick. That would be quite bonus after a great year that lasts until June for the Hawks should the Nets continue to stink it up and who knows, the ping pong balls could drop to give the ATL a top 3 pick too!


In order to NOT play Cleveland in the 2nd round (since they are pretty obviously the biggest challenge for the Hawks to make the Finals), the Cavs have to finish with either the #2 or #3 seed. Their race with Chicago & Toronto is a tight one, but the Cavs finally pulled ahead in that 3 team race last week and will hopefully stay there. It would really stink to have to play them in round 2. While obviously a championship is the #1 goal, making it to the East Finals for the first time in Atlanta Hawks history would be a great (historical) step.


I do have a question for Mr. Bradley. Who made the Payne trade? Was it Ferry pulling the strings behind the scenes or whoever the acting GM is? Because that trade smelled then and stinks more every day with Payne averaging 8.5 ppg & 7 rpg the last 5 games showing he could be a contributor somewhere down the line. (BTW - in his last 5 games, Antic has averaged 1.5 ppg, 1.0 rpg and 3 DNP's). He's also 8 years older and makes 1 1/2 times as much money as Payne.


I'm all for resting starters to see what the bench can do, just wish they would have seen what Payne could do before giving him away.


In any case - GO HAWKS!!!!

coops34
coops34

Got Rest!  More than likely coach Bud will rest some starters Sunday in Sac-town.  So all you that overreacted to the Philly loss be prepared.

BravesFan79
BravesFan79

I think home-court advantage in the Finals would be Huge!    You tend to get more calls going your way, and the fans support is big.  
 That being said, the Hawks have a better chance of going to the finals than the Warriors because the playoffs in the West is killer.  So us trying to outdo the Warriors might not even matter, but we do need to stay infront of Memphis record wise.  

coops34
coops34

@BravesFan79 The best record will not guarantee you a spot in the finals.    

Wilbo
Wilbo

One of my favorite things is ridiculing Atlanta Homers, since local professional teams basically always wilt like steamed spinach when it counts, but I'm just gonna be quiet and actually give Mr. Bradley credit: hey buddy it almost looks like you could for once be right about an Atlanta pro sports team.


I still think the Atlanta Hawks will find a way NOT to win the NBA championship, but I have to say this is the best Atlanta team in any sport I have seen in many years.


You guys enjoy the ride, and we can all hope I'm wrong (for once) that they will blow it in crunch time...


Let me eat a tiny bite of crow and say this one more time, "Congratulations, Mr. Bradley, for recognizing strong solid team play and predicting the Hawks would hold up much longer than many of us thought they could...."

BravesFan79
BravesFan79

@Wilbo You talk alot, but never name the teams or cities you actually support.   Are you actually a scarred Lakers or Knicks fan talking trash Wilbo?

nomanland5
nomanland5

@Wilbo the hawks have had problems because of selfish ball play from joe johnson and josh smith. they're gone now so for the first time since nique we got a chance. (nique and the hawks never won a finials because of timing of bull's michael jordan and Larry bird) all about timing and hawks have a good chance

WaltBBall
WaltBBall

I'm a HAWK fan and it's one game at a time until the HAWKS return home.  I don't discount any team because this is the NBA and some nights the worse team can shoot the lights out.  Nineteen games left and 14-5 is good for me but so is 12-7 .GO HAWKS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!