ATLANTA -- Expectations for the Atlanta Hawks have always been low, and rarely was there any mention of the playoffs. Last year's postseason journey has changed that.
Atlanta took eventual NBA champion Boston to the brink of playoff elimination before falling in Game 7 in the Eastern Conference finals. The experience has made this group hungry to not only get back to the playoffs, but give themselves a better chance of getting past the first round.
For the Hawks, that would mean getting home court advantage at least through the first round.
Atlanta (16-10), which has the fourth-best record in the East, is on course to do that.
"You're looking to better yourself from a playoff position," said Atlanta coach Mike Woodson, a former Pistons assistant on the 2004 NBA championship team. "Everybody is talking playoffs. Well, if that's what you're talking, your mindset has to be securing home court advantage."
Atlanta captain Joe Johnson said the team is well aware of the value in having home court advantage for at least the first round of the playoffs. In the Boston series, the home team was victorious in each game.
"But in order to put ourselves in a good position in the playoffs, we have to start now," Johnson said.
Atlanta has a 10-2 record at home this season. Only Boston, Cleveland and the Los Angeles Lakers have a higher winning percentage.
The Hawks expect to continue their strong play at Philips Arena today when they face the Detroit Pistons who, if the playoffs were today, would be Atlanta's first-round opponent.
This will be the Hawks' first game against Detroit since the blockbuster trade last month that sent Chauncey Billups to Denver in exchange for Allen Iverson.
"They're still obviously, a super talented team with a ton of experience," said Hawks guard/forward Mo Evans, a former Pistons player. "They're kind of going through a rebuilding phase right now, after losing such a powerful leader in Chauncey."
Detroit won its first four games without Iverson. Since then, the Pistons are 10-10 which includes Friday night's 120-114 double overtime loss to Utah at The Palace.
"It's still a long season," Woodson said. "But it's a big game for both teams. We have to treat every game the way we finished in the playoffs. If we do that, we put ourselves in a higher position to win at a high level. And we've done that for the most part of this season. We have played good Basketball at a high level."
And that process began shortly after the Game 7 loss to Boston.
"After that series, everybody came back with a little bit different swagger," Johnson said. "It showed in training camp. We had a great camp. Everybody was focused. It was a good summer for us."
The Hawks are hopeful that a good spring is on the horizon, preferably with a home court advantage at least in the first round.
"That would be an awesome advantage," said Mo Evans, a former Piston.