Atlanta Hawks: Keys to Watch as Hawks Make Playoff Push in Season's 2nd Half

Amanda BlantonContributor IJanuary 21, 2013

Atlanta Hawks: Keys to Watch as Hawks Make Playoff Push in Season's 2nd Half

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    After losing an exciting yet disappointing Eastern Conference quarterfinal series to the Boston Celtics last year, Atlanta Hawks fans are itching to make it even further in the NBA playoffs.

    Sitting on a solid 22-18 record heading into the second half of the season, the Hawks are in good position to be one of the eight Eastern Conference squads to see postseason action. There are a few areas where the Hawks need to improve as they head into the last stretch of the regular season. 

Coping with the Loss of Lou Williams

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    It was a nightmare for Hawks fans to hear about the season-ending torn ACL that starter Louis Williams suffered last week against the Brooklyn Nets. Williams, who was averaging 14.1 points and 3.6 assists per game, was a crucial part of Atlanta’s offense this season.

    John Jenkins is one of the Hawks who will be put to the test to help fill Williams’ void. According to Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

    The rookie, known for his outside shooting ability, said he expected no trouble stepping in and running the Hawks’ up-tempo offense.

    Although Williams has big shoes to fill, Jenkins is sure to gain scoring momentum over the coming weeks and be an integral part of the Hawks for the remainder of the season. 

Keep the Assists Coming

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    One category where the Hawks are dominating this season is in assists. Atlanta is averaging an impressive 23.1 assists per game, which ranks fifth in the NBA.

    The large number of assists shows that the Hawks are working together as a team to create a cohesive scoring unit.  Their balanced scoring attack has proven successful, and all starters are averaging double-digit points. 

Continued Success from Jeff Teague

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    Jeff Teague has proven to be one of the leaders on the team this year. He is the only Hawk who has started all 40 games, which is impressive considering that this is only his third season in the league, and he leads the team in assists per game (6.6) and steals per game (1.48).

    Although his turnover average of 2.80 per game is nothing to be proud of, Teague has been a young, fresh, go-to playmaker this season.

    Continued consistency from Teague will be key as we look forward to the postseason. 

Be Better on the Boards

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    Two words: more rebounds.

    One area where the Hawks definitely need to improve is rebounding. As a team, Atlanta is currently ranked 25th in the NBA when it comes to boards. The Hawks' current rebounding percentage simply won't cut it, especially against playoff-caliber teams. Aggressiveness is key when it comes to both offensive and defensive rebounds.

    Al Horford can teach his fellow teammates a thing or two about rebounds, as he is tied for 12th in the NBA in rebounds, averaging 9.83 per game. Josh Smith is averaging a solid 8.30 rebounds per game, but the rest of the team has very low board statistics. If the Hawks can focus more on this aspect, they are sure to win more games.

Take Care of Business on the Road

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    The Hawks have a 9-11 record on the road. This is not necessarily something to be worried about just yet, but Atlanta has challenges in the second half of the season that could affect its playoff seeding.

    The Hawks' first test will start on February 23, as they head west for six straight road games. Although most of the teams on that road trip are not in the Eastern Conference, it is vital that the Hawks get more comfortable playing on the road, especially when it comes time for the playoffs.