Atlanta Hawks: How Are They Winning Without Al Horford?

Nick Nafpliotis@@NickNafster79Correspondent IJanuary 22, 2012

Atlanta Hawks: How Are They Winning Without Al Horford?

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    Since the Atlanta Hawks lost starting center Al Horford—arguably their most valuable player—on Jan. 11 due to a torn pectoral muscle, they have gone 5-1.  

    Many people (including myself) considered this season completely shot after it was revealed that Horford would most likely be out for the remainder of the season. Here are a few reasons why the Atlanta Hawks have somehow managed to continue to win games.

Josh Smith Is Finally Playing Up to His Potential

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    Instead of settling for long jumpers and hanging back at the top of the key, Josh Smith has been playing out of his mind since Horford went down.  

    He is averaging around 20 points a game, crashing the boards, defending the lane and having the type of dominant performances (30 points and 13 rebounds against the Charlotte Bobcats) that he is capable of when playing to his strengths.

Joe Johnson Is Stepping Up

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    If you take out his bad game against the 76ers on Jan. 20, Joe Johnson has been a dominant scorer since Horford went out of the lineup.  

    He is averaging 22 points per game, including an astounding performance against the Cavaliers on Jan. 21 in which he scored 25 points in under 30 minutes of floor time.

    He has even managed to show some leadership skills, telling Josh Smith and Jeff Teague that they needed to "take ownership" of the team while Horford was sidelined.

    You still won't get me to say that he is worth the exorbitant and ridiculous contract the Hawks gave him, but it's good to see him playing like an All-Star again...even if it's only for a few games.

Ivan Johnson Is Playing Like He Belongs in the NBA

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    After a strong showing in the NBA D-League last year, Ivan Johnson has made the most of his opportunity for playing time while Horford recovers.

    He has given the Hawks good minutes off the bench, including a double-double (10 points, 11 rebounds) and the game-clinching free throws in a comeback win against the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Jeff Teague Is Growing Up as a Point Guard

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    Everyone knows that Jeff Teague has the potential to be an explosive scorer on any given night (20 points against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Jan. 14), but he has also begun to take much better care of the ball and is distributing it much more as well.

    In that same game against the Timberwolves, Teague had 10 assists.

    He had only five assists against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Jan. 20, but he also didn't have any turnovers.

Their Schedule Since Horford's Injury Has Been Easy

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    Here comes the catch:

    Of the six teams that the Hawks have played since Horford's injury, only two of them currently have winning records, the Portland Trailblazers and the Philadelphia 76ers.  While the Hawks were able to defeat Portland, they were beaten badly by Philadelphia.

    The Hawks' remaining schedule through the month of January is still pretty favorable, with games against Milwaukee Bucks, San Antonio Spurs, Detroit Pistons, New Orleans Hornets and the Toronto Raptors.

    In February, however, Atlanta begins the month by playing the Memphis Grizzlies and the Philadelphia 76ers again.  Those games should give us a much better indication of how the Hawks are handling the loss of their starting center.