Two weeks ago, the Hawks embarked on a considerable journey -- eight games in 14 days, six of them against Eastern Conference-powers Cleveland, Boston, Orlando and Miami.
"It's going to be good," guard Mike Bibby said. "We're going to be able to tell where we stand."
The Hawks lost the first four -- their first four-game losing streak of the season -- before taking three of the last four, capped by Monday's 102-96 road win over Boston. As the Hawks head into a five-game homestand that starts Wednesday against Washington, here's a look back at the past two weeks.
What went right
*The Hawks have turned the tables on Boston, taking two games in a four-day stretch. While the Celtics were without forward Kevin Garnett in one game and Garnett and forward Rasheed Wallace in the other, it's still no small feat. Boston is 0-3 against the Hawks this season and 26-7 against the rest of the NBA.
*Despite going 3-5, the Hawks didn't lose much ground. From the Cleveland game Dec. 29 through Monday, they lost a half-game to Orlando and a game to Boston. They did fall three games farther behind the Cavaliers, who lead the Hawks by 4-1/2 games.
*Little-used veteran center Jason Collins stood his ground against Cleveland center Shaquille O'Neal in the second Cavaliers game, showing the sort of options the Hawks have to defend the NBA's big men.
*Guard Jamal Crawford continued his Sixth Man of the Year campaign. He was in double-figures in seven of the eight games and helped close out Boston twice, with 14 points in the fourth quarter on Friday and 17 points and five assists in the final 19 minutes Monday. He also contributed some of his best defense of the season against Boston on Monday.
*Center Al Horford continued his stellar play, averaging 12.0 points and 9.8 rebounds in the eight games. Forward Marvin Williams also came on, with six games in double figures.
What went wrong
*There's no ideal way to lose a game, but the Hawks picked two of the more worrisome methods in their five losses. Cleveland (twice) and New York overpowered them in the fourth quarter to win, while Miami and Orlando punished the Hawks' listless efforts with blowouts.
*The Hawks resorted to one-on-one play and jump shots to ill-effect when the offense faltered -- or perhaps vice versa, particularly against Orlando and Miami. It's fine when the shots go in, but, according to hoopdata.com, the Hawks rank 20th in the NBA in field-goal percentage on shots from 16-23 feet. There are more reliable strategies in the playbook.
*Crawford aside, the bench didn't give great punch. The trio of swingman Mo Evans and big men Zaza Pachulia and Joe Smith kicked in 21 in the blowout over New Jersey and 16 in the loss to Orlando, but didn't combine for more than eight in any other game.
What we learned
*Should the Hawks face Boston in the playoffs, confidence won't be a problem. The Hawks have won three times against the Celtics after trailing at halftime, twice in Boston. Should things get tight again, the Hawks know they can pull it out.
*Orlando still has the Hawks' number, having beaten them five times in a row, including losses by 17, 32 and 34 points.
*The Hawks still are learning to win. Beating Boston twice is significant, but not even challenging Miami and Orlando in blowout losses is evidence of a team still figuring out how to hang in games when its tank is low.
About the Author