Hawks Are Ready To Fly
The race for top seed in the NBA’s Eastern Conference looks like it could be a thriller with four teams looking likely to take it down to the wire given their proximity nearly a third of the way through the season.
Although the LA Lakers are only three games in front in the West, NBA Picks has them down as the class of the conference, and odds-on quotes are no surprise given the slip-ups that Dallas and Denver have already suffered, both relying far too heavily on one star player.
But in the East there are four TEAMS that could easily end in top spot, three you probably would have expected and one that probably has to go down as an upstart despite some fine playoff performances in recent seasons.
That team is, of course, the Atlanta Hawks who are just a game back of Orlando and with the chance to go level at the top of the Southeast if they win their couple of spare games.
Atlanta are one of the few teams in the NBA who boast five players who score in double figures on average, led by the ever-improving Joe Johnson, who gets little credit in MVP and All-Star balloting.
He has continued his improvement in shooting this year despite getting more double teams, although the Hawks could not manage to back up his 40 point effort against the Chicago Bulls earlier this week in an overtime defeat.
In fact, the defeat could just be a warning to Mike Woodson’s team not to get complacent – they went to the United Center on a six-game winning streak and NBA Predictions had them down for another victory, but they forgot how to defend as Derrick Rose ran wild in the final 12 minutes.
But the core of Johnson, Jamal Crawford, Josh Smith, Al Horford and Marvin Williams should be in there challenging right the way through to April and with only Orlando to beat (Miami are another one-man outfit) taking a top three seeding should be their aim – after that, the world could be their oyster.