The first two months of the NBA season have been full of surprises. Unfortunately for Atlanta Hawks fans, one of those surprises has been a slow start. Last year’s Cinderella in the Eastern Conference, the Hawks now have to deal with being the hunted rather than the hunters. Nate McMillan’s talented young squad has been nearly unbeatable at home with a 7-1 record. However, their constant struggles on the road may be enough to keep them out of the playoff picture if they are unable to right the ship.
Atlanta Hawks Must Right Road Woes to Get Back in the Playoff Picture
The Hawks started the season strong with a blowout of the Dallas Mavericks in Atlanta. Led by star Trae Young, the Hawks have held serve at home with relative ease. All seven homecourt wins have been by a double-digit margin. In their recent stretch of home games, Atlanta went undefeated, overtaking Milwaukee, Orlando, Boston, and Charlotte in the last week. Young has led the team in scoring in four of these home wins, while Cam Reddish, John Collins, and Clint Capela stood out in the other two.
Atlanta’s offense has played better at home, with the whole team seeming to feed off of the atmosphere and energy. Whatever it is, the Hawks are clearly scoring more at home than they are on the road. In Atlanta, the Hawks have been held under 100 points only once, in an 18-point loss to the Utah Jazz. Meanwhile, they have been held to 98 points or fewer four times in their nine road games.
As good as things have been for Atlanta at home, they have been taking a beating on the road. The Hawks are 1-8 in away games with the only win being a three-point nailbiter against the New Orleans Pelicans. The first two weeks of November were incredibly difficult for the Hawks. They lost six games in a row to start the month, five of which came on a lengthy road trip.
While the team has struggled, they haven’t had much help from their early schedule. Looking at their eight losses away from home, one could argue that it is too early for Hawks fans to be concerned. An early-season loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers initially looked like a major letdown to the Hawks. The Cavs have been a solid team to start this season and before the major injuries to key players Collin Sexton and Evan Mobley, they were a surprise team in the East. The same can be said for Atlanta’s loss in Washington to the Wizards. Washington is 10-5 and holds a surprising spot in the conference standings.
The rest of Atlanta’s road losses came against teams that made the playoffs last year and the red-hot Golden State Warriors. The Hawks were outclassed by the Warriors, who hold the NBA’s best record, to the tune of a 127-113 track meet. Other losses have come at the hands of the Phoenix Suns, Denver Nuggets, Utah Jazz, and Brooklyn Nets. Their worst loss came in Philidelphia where the 76ers trounced them in a 122-94 beatdown.
The road-weary Hawks will get a chance to catch up soon. Their next five away games are far more favorable matchups, including trips to San Antonio, Indianapolis, and Orlando.
Trae Leads the Way
Much like last year, the Hawks will go as far as their superstar point guard can take them. The All-Star is nearly averaging a double-double with 25.1 points and 9.2 assists per game. Capela continues to be a solid second star, averaging 10.9 points, 11.6 rebounds, and 1.2 blocks per game. With the injury to De’Andre Hunter, Atlanta will need to see more from wingman Bogdan Bogdanovic. They hope the sharpshooting Bogdanovic can repeat his efforts from last year’s run, but he is currently averaging only 12.3 points and has a Player Efficiency Rating of 12.79. The Hawks will also need to see more from Collins, Reddish, and Kevin Huerter if they are going to make another run at a conference final.
Atlanta has the opportunity to bounce back into the playoff race with favorable matchups in their next six games. However, they still have some difficult road trips ahead and they must find a way to win those key road games if they are going to prove that last year was no fluke.
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