Knock the Hawks all you want, but they left town Feb. 11 in fourth place in the Eastern Conference standings and a robust 10 games above .500. And they'll hit the floor at Philips Arena against Cleveland Sunday in fourth place and eight games over .500.Not bad for a team whose fans expected them to come back reeling from a season-long six-game road trip, including a five-game Western Conference stint.
"I'd feel pretty good," Johnson said if someone had told him five months ago the Hawks would be 33-25 this late in the season. "We haven't played great basketball on the road, but here at home, we've been pretty good. And to have most of the month of March here at home, it's going to be big for us."
The Hawks are 20-6 on their home floor this season, the fourth best home record in the conference behind Cleveland, Boston and Orlando, the three teams ahead of them in the standings.
With 12 of their next 16 games at home, the Hawks are admittedly confident in their chances to hold on to that fourth spot.
"This is the home stretch," Hawks coach Mike Woodson said. "Starting with Miami (Friday) and Cleveland, there's no doubt about it. This is what you build for on the schedule. We took care of business early. And being (eight) games over .500 now puts us in a great position.
"We're on schedule. We have a chance to finish the month with a 6-5 record with eight games on the road, and we played .500 basketball on the road. You do that and win your fair share of games at home and you're playing at a high level."
HAWKS 91, HEAT 83: This was no masterpiece.
But for a team in desperate need of a win, the methods were the least of the Hawks' concern.
Friday night's 91-83 win over Miami in Philips Arena served two very practical purposes.
The Hawks maintained a little cushion on the Heat for the fourth spot in the Eastern Conference playoff chase. And they snapped a three-game losing streak that began in Portland this time last week, during a Western Conference road swing that left the Hawks battered and bruised.
Al Horford made sure the Hawks maintained control throughout the game by dominating on both ends of the floor. He recorded the NBA's 13th 20-20 game of the season, finishing with 21 points and a career-high 22 rebounds.
Joe Johnson led the way with 24 points for the Hawks, who improved to 33-25 with the win. Josh Smith finished with 14 points, eight rebounds, four assists and two blocks. Marvin Williams added 13 points. And Flip Murray chipped in with 12 off the bench, playing all but five minutes of the second half in place of Hawks starting point guard Mike Bibby.
Bibby started the game, but was clearly still feeling the effects of a flu bug that caused him to be sent home early from this week's Western Conference road swing.
He played 19 scoreless minutes against the Heat. He played 15 scoreless in his last game, Monday's loss in Utah.