Things To Know: Hawks

Things You Already Know:
The Atlanta Hawks are quietly having one of their most solid seasons in recent years even if their 20-24 record isn’t exactly awe-inspiring. Still, a sub .500 record is good enough to place the Hawks seventh in the Eastern Conference playoff standings, even if their fans aren’t noticing or caring (The Hawks are 21st in the league in attendance with just over 15,300 a game).

With 21 points, Joe Johnson—one of the most underrated players in the entire league—leads the Hawks on offense. Although Josh Smith is having his finest seasons to date, Johnson is the Hawk’s lone representative in this year’s All-Star game, picked as a reserve by Doc Rivers.

Things You Might Not Know:
Several Hawks’ players are having career seasons, with an athletic five-man core of Joe Johnson, Josh Smith, Marvin Williams, Al Horford, Anthony Johnson and the versatile Josh Childress as a critical sixth man off the bench leading the charge. Smith averages 18 while Williams gets 17 a night, followed by Childress’ 12.

The Hawks have won their first two games of February against New Jersey and Philadelphia after losing seven of eight to close out the month of January. In their last game Monday night against Philadelphia, Josh Smith arguably had the game of his life, nearly notching an unheard of quadruple double with 19 points, a whopping nine blocks, nine assists and six rebounds.

Things You Need To Know:
Atlanta has all the ingredients for a potent offense, but their numbers say otherwise. The Hawks only score 95 points a night—twenty-third in the league. However, their surprisingly efficient defense has been their saving grace this season as they only give up 96 a night. In fact, the Hawks are third in the league in blocked shots behind only Phoenix and Denver with over six a game.

The Lakers won both of their games against the Hawks last season, with Lamar Odom having monster rebounding nights in both games, with 15 and 18 respectively. While the Hawks have a talented lineup filled with versatile players who can easily slide from position to position, they lack an imposing inside presence, which is exactly where the Lakers have burned them in the past. Without Bynum and before the Gasol trade, this game had the makings of a competitive match-up. Instead, the Lakers should have no problem shooting down the Hawks.