So Far, So Good – 20 Games In
The Hawks are 20 games into the 2009-10 regular season . . . roughly a quarter of the way through. Their 14-6 record has them on pace for about 57 wins, which would be 10 more than in 2008-09. A closer look at how Atlanta has gotten to this point of the season makes many believe this year’s Hawks are very capable of maintaining the early pace.
Staying Healthy:(knock on wood)
Atlanta has used the the same starting five for all 20 games this season. Last year the team had used the Mike/Joe/Al/Josh/Marvin lineup only six times at this point, with Horford (2 games), Smoove (12) and Marvin (1) all missing starts.
The Hawks are 8-2 against teams with records at or above .500 entering Wednesday night. Quality road wins at Boston, Dallas and Portland are evidence that this year’s team is capable of hanging with the league’s elite even without the comforts of the Highlight Factory. Many will point out bad losses to the Knicks and to the Bobcats in Charlotte, but a quick look at last year’s results reveal that losses to sub-par teams happen in the NBA, even if you are among the elite. The Lakers, who eventually were crowned NBA Champions, lost to the Kings (who finished 17-65) and lost both meetings with the Bobcats (35-47). Orlando, L.A.’s opponent in the finals, lost to Memphis (24-58), Toronto, Milwaukee and New Jersey (all had 34 wins or less). So we shouldn’t panic too much about a couple early season slips.
Analyzing the Analysts:
Most experts had the Hawks finishing as the fourth or fifth seed in the East and not contending with the “Big 3”. While Atlanta is currently holding down the fourth spot, they are now in the discussion when it comes to the 3-seed or even higher.
The Crawford Effect:
Analysts agreed that the biggest difference between this year’s Hawks and the Hawks of 2008-09 was the addition of Jamal Crawford and the departure of Flip Murray. Going inside the numbers shows that Jamal is having a greater impact:
Not to take anything away from Flip, because he was a great fit (and a bargain) for the role that he played on last year’s team, but most of his numbers were built up by leading an inferior second unit that needed an aggressive scorer. Jamal provides even more production and can be used with the starters or with the (much improved) second unit.
Speaking of the second unit:
JC, Joe Smith, Mo, Zaza and Teague have been great through the first 20 games of the season. One stat that should pay dividends down the stretch and into the playoffs is that Al Horford is the only starter whose minutes have increased since last season. The other four starters have seen their minutes cut as Coach Woodson has been able to give them more rest with the stronger bench.
Inside the Numbers:
Obscure stat of the first 20 games: Al Horford career 3FG% = 100%
Al took and made his only career attempt in the Hawks home win over Portland.