It is the first time in the eight year history of NBA.com’s power rankings that Atlanta has topped the list.
After holding off the Portland Trailblazers last night in overtime, the Hawks are now 9-2 on the season and lead the Eastern Conference by one game over the Miami Heat.
Joe Johnson continues to be the franchise player after coming up huge in last night’s win at Philips Arena. He had 18 of his game-high 35 points in the fourth quarter and overtime, while Atlanta got the season-sweep over Portland 99-95.
Josh Smith added 20 points of his own to go with 16 rebounds, and a fifth straight win for the Hawks.
The Hawks have two more home games this week, including a huge matchup on Wednesday night.
The win over the Trailblazers has set up an Eastern Conference showdown between the Hawks and Heat on Wednesday at the Highlight Factory.
The Hawks and Heat (7-2) are the top two teams in the East, and have developed a strong rivalry after last year’s exciting seven-game first round playoff matchup.
The Hawks also have another test on Friday night when the Houston Rockets come to town. The Rockets are no push-over, after they beat the Los Angeles Lakers at the Staples Center by double digits last night.
However, the Hawks do have a noticeable advantage at home. They are 4-0 in Atlanta this season and are winning by an average of 17.5 points per contest, according to the Hawks’ website.
The Hawks are proving that there are more than just three elite teams in the Eastern Conference. The Miami Heat also has something to say about that as both teams are having terrific starts.
Johnson also had nine assists to go with his 35 points, and Al Horford continues to the Hawks’ double-double man, finishing with 15 points and 10 rebounds.
Atlanta was in comeback mode last night, trailing the Blazers 67-58 to start the fourth quarter. Johnson scored 10 points in the fourth quarter—two 3-pointers and hit a pair of clutch free throws with just 4.1 seconds to give Atlanta an 85-82 lead. Portland’s Rudy Fernandez drained a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to send the game into overtime.
Johnson added eight more points in the overtime, and it was Jamal Crawford who made two clutch free throws in the extra frame, to put the nail-in-the-coffin with 7.9 seconds left in the game.