The Hawks have already won four more games before Christmas than they won in coach Mike Woodson's entire first season on the job.With wins over teams such as Cleveland, Detroit, Orlando, New Orleans and Miami, the Hawks have announced their intention of joining the ranks of the league's playoff contenders, leaving behind years of work in the pretender category.
"Hey, we'll take the win against a good team that's right behind us in the standings right now," Josh Smith said after the Hawks' 85-78 victory over Detroit on Sunday. "So any separation we can get is a good thing."
The Hawks are talking separation in the standings in December? What is this, the Twilight Zone?
That the Hawks are now able to not only compete with but also dispatch teams from the upper echelon of the standings is yet another revelation gleamed from their 17-10 start, the best the franchise has seen in over a decade.
The Pistons have long been one of their tormentors in the Eastern Conference, having swept the season series from the Hawks in each of the past three seasons. But the times have changed, and for the better where the Hawks are concerned.
Woodson pointed to his team's improved defense and just the natural growth and maturity that comes with what the Hawks have been through since last season's coming-of-age saga in their playoff run against Boston.
"We've grown, and that's the sign of a team that's (matured) over the years," Woodson said. "These guys aren't the same guys they were a couple of years ago. And you have to tip your hat to those guys in the locker room because they've worked. They've put time in during the summer, and every year they've come back better.
"I expect this team to beat good teams. We've shown that here as of late. And if you can take the Celtics to seven, you should be able to beat anybody in this league."
HAWKS 85, PISTONS 78: Atlanta point guard Mike Bibby would be wise to consult with his teammates first before just deciding not to shoot anymore.
He spent halftime of Sunday's win over Detroit at Philips Arena getting dirty looks and having to explain why he stopped shooting from deep after making all five of his 3-point attempts in the second quarter.
"I'm not lying, I was (ticked off) at him," Hawks forward Marvin Williams said. "I told him that at halftime. 'You haven't missed yet and you stop shooting.' And then he went back out there after halftime and hit his next one. I could've strangled that cat."
The Hawks led by as many as 18 before surviving a late run against a team that had beaten them in eight of their previous 10 meetings in Atlanta.
Bibby's 15-point second quarter was the boost the Hawks needed, as they cranked things up behind his hot shooting. They led by as many as 13 before halftime and controlled the game the rest of the way thanks to the cushion Bibby provided.
He finished with a game- and season-high 27 points (on 10-for-13 shooting), five assists and three rebounds, nearly outscoring the Pistons' starting backcourt of Allen Iverson (10 points) and Rodney Stuckey (20 points) by himself.
"The first shot I took didn't even feel good, and it went in," Bibby said. "That's usually a good indication that the shots you take are going to go in. And the guys did a good job of finding me all night."