The Atlanta Hawks lost for the fourth time in their last eight games Wednesday night to fall behind the Washington Wizards into fifth place in the Eastern Conference standings. There isn’t a lot of shame in losing to a Miami Heat team that has won nine straight games but there are some concerning factors beneath the surface.
Over the last five games the Hawks are allowing 119.2 points per game. Part of that is skewed due to the 139 points put up by the New York Knicks in Sunday’s four-overtime game in which Atlanta won. However, over that span of five games, the Hawks are offering little resistance at the defensive end.
Jan 23 loss to Clippers 115-105
Jan 25 win over Bulls 119-114
Jan 27 loss to Wizards 112-86
Jan 29 win over Knicks 142-139 4OT
Feb 1 loss to Heat 116-93
If not for a fourth quarter Bulls implosion, Atlanta could be staring a five game losing streak in the face. They have allowed at least 112 points in each of the last five games and that isn’t a recipe for success for an offensively challenged club. Of course we have already seen this before this season.
The Hawks began the season 9-2 posting a 95.1 defensive rating per NBA.com over that span. They followed that with a 4-14 stretch where their defensive rating ballooned to 107.0. Atlanta had a good January overall going 11-5 against mostly sub .500 competition but their defensive rating has jumped to 110.4 over the last five games.
This group has been an inconsistent lot for most of the season and that is troubling with just over three weeks remaining until the February trade deadline.
It is difficult to evaluate this club given its performance this season. They figured to be offensively challenged on some nights as Wednesday’s 13-assist performance suggested but their calling card has always been on the defensive end of the floor. If they can’t consistently get stops, then the ceiling for this group is much lower than their current record indicates.
Atlanta will finish off a back-to-back in Houston on Thursday before returning home to begin a three-game home stand that will feature matchups against Orlando, Utah and Denver. The Hawks then head out on a three-game west coast trip that will take them to Sacramento, Portland and Los Angeles before heading into the All-Star break and the trade deadline.
In some respects, it seems like Atlanta has already made the decision that they won’t be sellers at the trade deadline. If that is the case then they need to look hard at ways to supplement a roster that once again looks like it has lost it’s identity.