Hawks are cashing in on their reserves

Thabo Sefolosha tried to calm the celebration – but he enjoyed it.

The Hawks reserve forward got mobbed by teammates after he hit an 18-foot pull-up jumper in the second quarter of a 115-107 win over the Bulls on Wednesday. He had just completed a remarkable run by scoring 16 of the Hawks’ 21 points in a span of 3:44 and forced the Bulls to call a timeout when they trailed by 14 points.

“I liked that,” Sefolosha said following the game.

Sefolosha’s performance was the latest of many early-season successes by reserves in the Hawks’ 6-2 start. The win was the second in as many nights over top teams in the Eastern Conference as it followed a victory at the Cavaliers Tuesday.

Sefolosha is averaging 25 minutes per game this season with just one start as he replaced Kyle Korver against the Cavaliers. Yet in the NBA, he ranks second in steals (2.6 per game), sixth in field goal percentage (60.0) and sixth in plus/minus rating (plus-78).

“It’s huge,” Sefolosha said of the play of the Hawks’ bench and its role in winning the back-to-back games. “Everyone on this team can play, a guy in the starting five, a guy from the bench, everybody can contribute big time. Different night, different guy steps up.”

In addition to Sefolosha, other Hawks reserves have played significant roles. Consider:

* Mike Muscala leads the NBA with at 66 percent field goal percentage.

* Malcolm Delaney is eighth in the league in plus/minus rating of plus-76 despite a playing time average of 17 minutes. He was a plus-25 in 17 minutes against the Bulls while scoring 10 points.

* Tim Hardaway Jr. is 17th in the league with a plus/minus rating of plus-59 in 21 minutes per game.

“We take pride coming off the bench,” Delaney said. “Making sure we get the momentum back for the starters sometimes if they are not in a good rhythm, we try to pick it back up so they can build off of us.

“We have a deep team. When you go deep into a season, especially in a deep conference, playing against top teams like this every night, you need a number of players to help contribute.”

The Hawks have assembled a strong bench at minimal cost. Sefolosha will make $3.85 million this season. Hardaway is still on his rookie contract and will make $2.28 million. Delaney will make $2.5 million after playing five seasons overseas. Muscala is the first reserve off the bench and will make just over $1 million. The Hawks also get production from Kris Humphries who will make $4 on his one-year deal. There are two first-round picks at the end of the bench in Taurean Prince and DeAndre Bembry who will be part of the organization’s future.

Starter Kent Bazemore believes the combination of the first and second units will help, especially later in the season.

“It means a lot,” Bazemore said of the Hawks’ depth. “These are games - well, last year, we may have slipped up and lost. We’ve won some games that really tell a lot about this team. It wasn’t a bunch of the starters tonight. Guys off the bench, Thabo, Malcolm, Muskie playing well. That’s what it takes to be a championship team. I think the beauty of this team is you never know where it’s coming from. Last year you could zone in on Paul (Millsap), Jeff (Teague), Al (Horford), but this year it can be anybody. You look at (Tuesday) night. I had a huge night. (Wednesday night), not so big, but other guys are stepping up. It’s very encouraging what we’ve got going on.”