When asked to explain the Hawks' newfound prowess, both at Philips Arena and away from home, Joe Johnson's answer is simple. "It's just determination," the Hawks' captain and All-Star said after his team secured its current league-best sixth straight win Tuesday in Indiana. "Just going out and trying to work harder than the opponent. We've been doing that. In the second halves we've clamped down [on the defensive end], got stops and made big plays offensively.
"It's really been as simple as that."
Well, sort of.
The Hawks are winners of nine of their past 10 games, the best current 10-game stretch in the NBA, and are 21-game winners by the New Year. When a team does that, after struggling to win 37 games last season, there has to be a little more to it, doesn't there?
"We've been pretty methodical," Hawks swingman Marvin Williams said. "There certainly isn't any Harry Potter stuff going on. We don't have any lucky charms or anything crazy like that. We're just grinding, scrapping our way to every win we can."
The 110-104 win over the Pacers gave the Hawks a 21-10 record. It's the most games over .500 they've been since the end of the lockout-shortened, 50-game 1998-99 season, when they finished 31-19.
Pacers coach Jim O'Brien might have summed it up best late Tuesday when he said, "Clearly the Atlanta Hawks have become a very, very good Basketball team."
After years of prodding from coach Mike Woodson, the Hawks have finally developed the defensive mentality he has been pushing.
They are 18-4 this season in games in which they hold the opposition under 100 points.
"I think if you watch us play, no matter who is out there, we're at our best when we're defending and rebounding on defense and sharing the ball on offense," second-year Hawks center Al Horford said. "It's not anything complicated. When we stick to who we are, the defense and rebounding, I think we're capable of playing with anybody."
And there's definitely something to the sharing-the-ball mentality. Johnson is the Hawks' workhorse, averaging 23.4 points per game, but he's also the leader in assists (5.7).
When he shares the ball the Hawks are unbeatable; they're 8-0 in games in which he has had eight or more assists.
"It's no secret that Joe Johnson sets the tone for us," Woodson said. "But I think you have to credit all the guys in that locker room for coming to work every single day and doing whatever it takes to help this team win games. I think guys have bought into what we're doing and that's translated into what you see from us on the floor every night.
"And it's good to see, because we've struggled to get here. We've had to go through some tough times to get here. Now the key is to continue climbing and make sure we're moving forward. We have a lot of season left to play and a lot of goals we still have to reach."
NEXT FOR Hawks
* Who: at Nets
* When: 7:30 p.m. Friday
* TV; radio: Fox Sports South; 790 AM