Joe Johnson wouldn't have believed it if he wasn't living every single joyous minute of it the Hawks' early-season joyride.Even on nights when they don't play their very best, the Hawks' captain and All-Star can enjoy the fruits of his team's labor.
"It feels pretty good," Johnson said after recording his second career triple-double with 20 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists and helping the Hawks improve to 18-10 with a win over Oklahoma City on Tuesday at Philips Arena. "But at the same time we have to know what's at stake and we have to know we have a long way to go to reach our goals.
"So we can't get ahead of ourselves. We just have to stay focused and stay on track."
However, it's OK to admire where they've come from -- a 13-win season in Hawks coach Mike Woodson's first season to the playoffs last year and now one of the top four records in the Eastern Conference at this early stage of the season.
The Hawks continue to play lights-out basketball on their home floor with a 12-2 record this season, including a 5-1 mark on their eight-game home stand.
"We're in good shape right now. Guys are working hard, guys are definitely aware of what we have to do here at home. We're just trying to take it one game at a time."
And as long as they're in every game, they'll allow Johnson to do what he does best.
"We're not even playing our best offensively right now but we're managing," Johnson said. "We're managing on offense and relying on our defense. The biggest thing is that we're winning without playing our very best basketball. And that wouldn't have been the case for us in the past."
HAWKS 99, THUNDER 88: Hawks coach Mike Woodson knows the pain the Oklahoma City Thunder is living through right now.
The Thunder left Philips Arena on the short end of a 99-88 game despite outplaying the Hawks for much of the game.
Woodson's Hawks are just four years removed from a 13-69 campaign during his first season and many nights like the one his team had just put on the Thunder.
"We know where they've been and it's tough," Woodson said. "You have to give their team credit for playing as hard as they do, because they're not letting up out there. And that's the key, you can't stop coaching and you can't stop working when you're down. You have to keep doing what you do."
The Hawks allowed the lowly Thunder (3-26) to give them fits for the better part of three quarters, only turn up their defense and intensity in the fourth quarter to pull out the win.