Reevaluating the 1st Quarter

Tuesday, December 7, 2010
By Jon Newberry

Much had been made about the quality (or lack of quality) wins by the Hawks during the early stages of the 2010-11 season. The general consensus has been that Atlanta has feasted on the teams that would finish toward the bottom of the standings and struggled with the teams that are poised to make the playoffs.

First let me state that there is no shame in feasting on lower level teams. Every elite team loses multiple games to the sub-.500 teams. Even the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls lost to some bottom dwellers during their march to a record setting 72-win season. They lost to the Raptors (who finished 21-61 that season), the Nuggets (35-47), the Suns (41-41) and the Charlotte Hornets (41-41). The point is, the Hawks do not owe anybody any apologies for “taking care of business” against the teams they are perceived to be better than. The talent in this league is just too deep for there to be that much disparity in talent.

Second, the main point I want to make is that early on in the NBA season it is sometimes premature to slap a label on any team. Take a look at these examples:

1- New York Knicks
After they missed out on the “LeBron James Sweepstakes” many figured they would flounder around the middle of the pack in the Eastern Conference or maybe even worse. Since a slow start the Knicks have won 10-of-11 games, improving their record to 13-9. Their one loss in that stretch: a home loss to Atlanta. What many viewed as “taking care of business” may turn out to be a quality road win in hindsight. (Side Note: the Knicks were worse last year and the Hawks were unable to win a game in two trips to MSG.)

2- Dallas Mavericks and Utah Jazz
These teams were 7-4 and 6-4, respectively, when they visited the Highlight Factory. Many viewed them as playoff teams, but not really “elite” (especially Utah). Since then these teams have gone gone a combined 19-2 and are playing as well as anyone in the league. Atlanta was one possession away from winning either of these games. While home losses have been few and far between in recent memory and are always tough to swallow, these games should not throw up any red flags.

3- Indiana Pacers
Similar to the New York Knicks ( but on a smaller scale) the Pacers entered the season with low expectations and are turning some heads while staying above .500. Any road win against a team over .500 is a quality win in this league.

Of Course it helps their case that the Hawks took down a certified contender last night in Orlando. There is a chance that a psychological barrier existed when the Hawks tipped-off against a known playoff team. Getting the win last night should show the Hawks players and NBA fans in general that this year’s team has potential to make a run in the playoffs. The team is getting more comfortable with the offense as time moves on and Joe Johnson’s injury should only make the team stronger as the calendar turns to 2011.