A 20-game recap of the Hawks

Three things that have gone right

1. The offense

New coach Larry Drew wanted an offense that is balanced, dynamic and not as reliant on All-Star guard Joe Johnson. He's gotten all of that for the most part. The Hawks are among the more efficient offensive teams in the NBA. Their main scorers -- Johnson, Al Horford, Josh Smith and Jamal Crawford -- all average from 10.6 to 15.5 field-goal attempts per game. Players other than Johnson led the Hawks in scoring for 13 of the 18 games he played.

2. The Smith-Horford frontcourt

The offense has frequently run through Horford, who is among the NBA's top five players in player-efficiency rating (a measure of per-minute statistical rating). Horford has added some post moves and improved his already-accurate jump shot to the point that his 60 percent shooting was second in the NBA entering Friday. Smith also has improved his shooting, and he remains a good passer, but his real impact has been on defense. He was tied for fourth in the NBA with 2.4 blocks per game entering Friday. When Smith is out of the game, Hawks opponents are emboldened to attack the basket on pick-and-rolls instead of settling for jump shots.

3. The road

The Hawks' dominating home record last season (34-7) was offset by inconsistency on the road (19-22). This season they have won seven of their first nine games away from Philips Arena to post the Eastern Conference's best road record. Early on the Hawks won close games at Philadelphia, Cleveland, Minnesota and Indiana while showing the type of poise that they lacked last season. Lately the Hawks have shown they can dominate weaker opponents with relatively easy victories at New York and Toronto.

Three things that have gone wrong

1. The defense

The Hawks' offense is humming, but the defense still rates middle-of-the-pack in the NBA. The Hawks' rebounding has been deficient, and they haven't forced a lot of steals. Since training camp Drew has talked about being tough on defense, but the Hawks still don't give the kind of focused, persistent effort that is a characteristic of serious contenders.

2. The health

It started in training camp with Jeff Teague's ankle injury and post-knee surgery setbacks for Mo Evans. The team's injury luck worsened when Evans ended up missing eight games and Marvin Williams went down with a knee injury that cost him four games. Finally, the toughest break came Wednesday when the Hawks learned that Johnson needed surgery for his sore right elbow; he's expected to miss at least a month.

3. The bench

For various reasons the top four reserves all have been inconsistent. Crawford started slowly while adjusting to the new offense. The knee injury sidetracked Evans. Center Zaza Pachulia hasn't provided his usual steady doses of energy, rebounding and defense. And Teague couldn't take advantage of his opportunity to unseat starting point guard Mike Bibby.