Hawks Beating the Odds to Stay In Race

Monday, January 28, 2013
By Jaryd Wilson

Atlanta Hawks v Chicago Bulls

If you think luck doesn’t exist in sports, think again.

Most experts would probably say the Hawks haven’t had a lot of misfortune during an overachieving 2012-2013 season.  It’s what lies beneath that they may not see.

The Atlanta Hawks are six games over .500 and currently sit sixth in the Eastern Conference, only 4.5 games behind first place Miami.  Yes, the team hit a bump in the road, but if you were to ask most fans, they probably wouldn’t have said the Hawks would be contenders after 44 games.  Winners of three of the past four, Atlanta is looking to make a final surge before the All Star break.

What’s remarkable is that the Hawks may actually be experiencing the worst luck of any team in the league.

Consider the following statistics:

– A team has gone perfect from the free throw line on 14 occasions this season.  Five of those 14 (36%) games have come against the Hawks.  If you’re a Math nerd, you may know that the odds of that happening that many times to the same team given that it’s happened 14 times is .00000295 percent.  Granted, that formula doesn’t take into account the number of free throws shot, the percentage of the shooters or the team’s percentage, but that’s still a ridiculous outcome.  Furthermore, Hawks opponents are shooting 78 percent from the line.  Only one team is “allowing” a higher percentage of free throws to go in.  Maybe the Hawks need better free throw defense?

– The Hawks are sixth in the league in FG% at 46 percent and are allowing opponents to shoot only 44.6 percent.  They also lead the East in three point percentage at better than 38 percent.  You would think those numbers would translate to more than just a +6 in the win column.

– On Sunday, the Hawks became the first team to shoot 60 percent or better and lose this season.  The 60 percent clip is a season best, yet it resulted in a loss.  Before Sunday’s game, every NBA team that shot at least 58 percent in a game this season had won.

Lou Williams is one of only three NBA players (Brandon Rush, Rajon Rondo) who has torn his ACL this season.  I say “only” given there are more than 400 players in the league, though an ACL is a devastating injury that you never want to see anyone go through.  It’s sad that there have been as many as there have over the past two seasons (Ricky Rubio, Iman Shumpert, Derrick Rose last season), but we can go back to playing the odds game.  If it only happens to three players, the odds of it happening to a player on your team is just 10 percent.

– Williams isn’t the only Hawk who has been down for the count this season.  Devin Harris has missed 15 games with ankle and knee problems, DeShawn Stevenson’s ailing knees have prevented him from playing in 15 games, Anthony Morrow is still recovering from a strained right hip after also missing time with a back injury, Kyle Korver’s bad back forced him to miss five games, and Al Horford, Josh Smith and Zaza Pachulia have each been out several games with nagging injuries.  In all, Hawks players have missed more than 60 combined games this year due to injuries.  They’re not the only team that’s had to battle through injuries (look at the Timberwolves if you’re feeling bad for the Hawks) this season, but one after the other is not normal.

– The Hawks had two All Star candidates in Smith and Horford, but neither made the team.  That may not be as much a product of bad luck as it is simply coaches’ preferences.  Both are having great years playing for a winning team, but it’s hard to argue that any of the guys on the team aren’t deserving.

Factor all that in, and you have a team that has overcome some adversity this season to stay above water.  If luck does exist, hopefully some in the good form is in store for this team as we get set for the final 38 games.  We know they’re due for it.

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