If anyone needed further proof of just how good the Atlanta Hawks are came their 120-89 win over the Washington Wizards, extending their lead on top of the Eastern conference, with everyone surprised for some reason that a team managed to flip the switch after major departures despite not tanking.
The Hawks simply play good, smart basketball, with an inside and outside threat. Kyle Korver is blooming, leading the team with 19 points and five 3-pointers, Jeff Teague is exploding with double doubles (11 points, 10 assists) and Dennis Schroeder is doing an excellent job of backing him up, also scoring 10 points in this game. Al Horford has no problem playing second or third fiddle if necessary, Paul Millsap is blooming and DeMarre Carroll provides the “defensive specialty” every team needs, only with scoring.
The win was the 8th in a row for the Hawks, extending their lead on top of the Eastern conference to 3.5 games over both the Raptors and the Bulls. They forced 19 turnovers out of the Hawks, including eight for John Wall. These kind of losses happen, and they say more about how good the Hawks are right now than the real difference between them and the Wizards, which is certainly not 31 points.
Teams in the NBA are so afraid to “just” be good and are so quick to throw everything away and tank their way into an unknown future, gambling everything they have on future draft picks and the salary cap opening up for them. But the Hawks proved you can do it differently. They let go of Joe Johnson and his awful contract and dodged a bullet it seems by not going after Josh Smith, avoiding the re-signing. Last year would have been very good if it wasn’t for Al Horford getting injured. This season it’s all coming together, which goes to show that it’s not such a bad idea of simply trying to make thoughtful adjustments instead of blowing everything up when it seems like they aren’t title contenders. All of a sudden, they find themselves as the best team in the East and in a season of parity, in an excellent position to go very far.