Mike Woodson has never been one to shelve his thoughts. If it's on his mind, he'll usually share it.
So when the Hawks coach talks about his team having something to prove to everyone -- themselves and the rest of the NBA included -- he probably means it.
And his team is in turn playing like it, roaring out of the gates this season. The Hawks have won four consecutive games and are tied atop the league standings with Phoenix at 8-2.
"We don't need to get ahead of ourselves," Woodson said, "and it's a long season, but we're a different team. And yeah, we're trying to prove something out there every night. That's just the way it is."
If that means more outings like the ones they had in a back-to-back set Friday in Boston and Saturday at home against New Orleans, both as impressive as they were rousing, then the Trail Blazers are in for some trouble Monday night at Philips Arena.
"This is what you play for," Hawks captain and All-Star Joe Johnson said. "We're out here trying to do it in a major way. It doesn't really matter to me where we are in the standings or anything like that. I just want to be a team that's getting better as the season goes on."
That doesn't appear to be a problem, especially with the way the Hawks are scoring these days (108.0 points per game) and the way they are playing on the road (4-2).
"It's a new team, so to speak, a new team and a fresh and new attitude," Josh Smith said. "We're trying to live up to our own hype, the stuff we cooked up."
HAWKS 121, HORNETS 98: Randolph Morris is the Hawks' equivalent of a victory cigar.
If he's on the court with over four minutes to play in a game, something has gone either very right or terribly wrong.
On Saturday night, Morris put on a late-game showcase, thanks to all the work the Hawks' regulars did in dismantling the Chris Paul-free Hornets at Philips Arena.
Joe Johnson scored 26 points and Jamal Crawford 21, both benefiting, somewhat, from the absence of Paul, who sprained his ankle Friday night and did not make the trip to Atlanta with the team.
But instead of gloating in the aftermath of the victory, Crawford made sure no one had that on the menu.
"We didn't want to embarrass anybody with a new coach and without their best player," Crawford said. "They're going through a lot right now."
Friday's 11-point win in Boston was still fresh on the mind, but the Hawks didn't get caught up in that swirl.
The Hawks locked down defensively and pounded the Hornets with their fury and athleticism until New Orleans simply ran out of gas and answers.
"The Hawks are a good team," Hornets general manager/coach Jeff Bower said. "They really know how to use their length and athleticism. It's impressive how good they are defensively. They're playing some of the best basketball in the league right now."
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