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.