Three things we learned about the Hawks last week

Illustration by Myah Anglin |The Signal

The Atlanta Hawks finish the week .500 after going 2-2, picking up key wins over the Denver Nuggets and Boston Celtics.

However, they also filtered against the Cleveland Cavaliers and Oklahoma City Thunder, which brought us a few takeaways. 

Even with Clint Capela, the defensive struggles continue

The Hawks kept their games close, but the defense impeded when they should have thrived. Late game defensive mishaps and poor first-half play hampered the team. 

A defensive breakdown allowed the Cavaliers to secure a late-game dunk to pull ahead with only a few seconds to go. A questionable substitution of removing Capela late in that game may have cost Lloyd Pierce a victory and a rise in the conference standings. 

Entering Sunday, the Hawks currently sat at 22nd in points allowed. Sure, the defense has improved inside, but they struggle to guard the perimeter. Atlanta struggles to close games out, evident by their 6-11 record in contests decided by five points or less. 

The defense simply has to be better. Atlanta is much improved this season, but the better defense will allow Atlanta to create transition points and secure victories down the stretch. 

Danilo Gallinari looks healthy and has the green light

Gallinari scored 38 points, mainly due to a career-high and franchise-record ten threes against the Celtics. He only missed two shots from behind the arc and made 3-4 on two-pointers. Gallinari was scorching hot 10-12 from three and 13-16 from the field.  

It was the third time in NBA history that a player made ten or more three-pointers off the bench.

Gallinari’s historic night helped Atlanta secure a key win over the Celtics and pull within the Eastern Conference’s striking distance. 

He averages 12 points a game, but if he can bolster that up to 18 points a game, Atlanta could have another great sharpshooter with the second unit. 

The Eastern Conference standings are stagnant, and that’s OK

Even with the two wins this week against better competition, the Hawks lost two games they should have won. They didn’t move up in the standings but didn’t fall, so they are still on the outside looking in. 

There are a few reasons for the lack of movement in the standings.

The defensive breakdowns and lack of offensive firepower in the second unit have failed Atlanta from moving ahead in a weaker Eastern Conference. Luckily the Hawks are only three games from the fourth seed.

With the East being more top-heavy this season and the playoffs next month, each game becomes more important than the last, and a winning streak would significantly help.

If the Hawks can pick up victories against Miami and Orlando, they can create momentum and move up in the standings heading into this weekend’s All-Star break. 

The biggest thing for this team is to get consistency from crucial players and as a team. The main objective is within reach, but now is the time to make a move to secure a playoff berth.