Atlanta Hawks: How Are They Winning Without Al Horford?
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
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
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
Jeff Teague Is Growing Up as a Point Guard
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
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.