Anyone wondering if the Hawks are for real should have their answer by now. The season is 12 games old and the surprising Hawks are still sitting atop the league standings, tied with Phoenix at 10-2.
All that talk of a Big Three in the Eastern Conference before the season seems a bit presumptuous now with the Hawks poised to make a major statement early in the season.
"It's early yet, but I like what we're doing right now," said Hawks captain Joe Johnson. "I know the way it was written before the season, but that doesn't mean anything to anybody right now. You've got to get between those lines and play ball right now. That's where you do your talking."
The best part for the Hawks is that they're not preoccupied with their place in the standings anymore now than they were before the season began.
"We're just focused on winning games," forward Josh Smith said. "As long as we win games, it's going to make us successful and keep us upbeat."
The Hawks continue their current homestand Friday against Houston, yet another playoff team from a year ago that figures to test their mettle. It's a challenge the Hawks insist they are looking forward to, another marked difference between this team and many of its predecessors under coach Mike Woodson.
"We're a different team than we were," Woodson said. "I promise you that."
HAWKS 105, HEAT 90: The Hawks' mastery at Philips Arena dates to last season, when they piled up 31 wins on their home floor en route to their best season in a decade.
They don't appear to be slowing down at all this season, as the Miami Heat can attest after they became the Hawks' sixth straight victim Wednesday night. Down by three points in the second quarter, the Hawks used a 28-8 run going into halftime to blow the game wide open.
Joe Johnson led the Hawks with 30 points, his second straight night with 30 or more, as the Hawks improved to 10-2 on the season to tie with Phoenix for the best overall record in the league.
"What can I tell you?" Hawks coach Mike Woodson said. "We're playing good basketball right now, and it's nice to see. These guys have been determined since last season to show that they're playing for something bigger than what we have in the past, and it shows."
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