The Time is Now: A Preview of Two Big Weeks for the Atlanta Hawks

Graham Chapple —  December 26, 2016
Scott Cunningham/NBAE/Getty Images

Scott Cunningham/NBAE/Getty Images

Whoa! A feature?? Yes, yes a feature because we’re about to enter a crucial point in the Atlanta Hawks’ season. These next two weeks… these next two weeks could determine whether the Hawks are going to be legitimate contenders for home court advantage (the three and four seeds) or whether they’re going to be in a dogfight with, like, seven other teams all jostling for playoff position, or the playoffs in general.

Let’s look at the upcoming schedule over the next two weeks and we’ll chat more then.

End of December:

hawks-dec

First 10 days of January:

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OK, let’s talk about the end of December first. These are huge games for the Hawks, starting with today’s matchup against the Minnesota Timberwolves. Minnesota is a team the Hawks should take care of. The Wolves are a measly 9-21 and an even worse 4-11 at home. The Hawks lost this game last season and have already lost their first encounter with the Wolves — at Philips Arena — this season. The Hawks have to right this wrong, If they want to be in with a shout of home court advantage, they have to take care of crappy teams like the Wolves, regardless whether it’s at home or on the road.

December 28th sees the Hawks kick off a three game home stand against the New York Knicks. The Knicks look to be significant playoff contenders and they already have a 1-0 series lead over the Hawks, having knocked off Atlanta in MSG on November 20th. The Hawks have got to start taking care of business at home, they’re 7-7 at home but that home record needs to rise above .500 if the Hawks are to contend for home court advantage. The Knicks will be a tough test but the Hawks have to start getting results and need to even this season series because it’s very possible these two teams could be even come season’s end. This is probably the most important game the Hawks will play in the next two weeks.

December 29th sees the Hawks welcome the Detroit Pistons to town. These two teams have met at Philips Arena already, the Hawks losing by a whopping 36 points at home. However, time moves quickly in the NBA and now is a great time to play the Pistons. They’re currently in the midst if a five game losing streak and are experimenting with their starting lineup. You’d imagine the Pistons will figure things out eventually and they definitely have the talent to be right up there in the mix with your Atlanta’s, New York’s (etc.) so it’s important for the Hawks to put themselves back in contention in this season series now while the Pistons are in a funk, just as the Pistons caught the Hawks in a funk.

Let’s look at the first 10 days of January.

What a way to kick off the New Year, huh? San Antonio at home. The Hawks have always struggled against the Spurs, who will certainly be looked upon as favorites heading into this game. This may well be a letdown game for the Hawks, especially if they’re still dealing with injuries as they are now. That makes getting results against the Knicks and Pistons even more important as the Hawks are really going to be up against it against the Spurs.

Those four games (the three to close out December and the Spurs game on January 1st), they could honestly go either way. It’s that four game road trip that the Hawks embark on — after the Spurs game — that may define their season and what kind of team they’re going to be. A four game road trip, all against teams with sub .500 records in Orlando, New Orleans, Dallas and Brooklyn. All of these teams combine for a .32 percentage record (the Hawks for reference, currently have a .500 record) and 41-82 record overall. If the Hawks go 1-3 on this road trip, unless they have a mid/late season epiphany they’re not going to be in the mix for home court advantage and could find themselves in a dogfight for the lower playoff seeds, and perhaps the playoffs themselves… These teams are not good and the Hawks have to take advantage.

For these next two weeks (technically 16 days) if the Hawks can go 5-3 over these next eight games, that would pretty decent. 6-2 would certainly be a success, but to go .500 or below, considering the opponents the Hawks are facing, would be bad. The big games are the Knicks and Pistons at home and that four game road trip against those crappy teams (I will give Orlando a little more credit, they’re just mediocre), let’s just be honest. It’s one thing to lose a game but to concede that game to teams that you’re directly fighting in a playoff race…

The Hawks have already left themselves work to do to get back to those 3 and 4 seeds after that horrible stretch of one win in 10 games and they need to put a streak together, they’ve been flip-flopping these last two weeks: win one, lose one, win one, lose one… They need to produce some kind of consistency. That’s why the Hawks have to make the most of this upcoming schedule.

It’s a big two weeks for the Atlanta Hawks. Are they up for the challenge?

Graham Chapple

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