The Atlanta Hawks have established themselves as one of the NBA's best home teams through the first third of the season. That's been bad news for opponents with the Hawks in the midst of an eight-game stretch at Philips Arena.The Hawks try for their 10th win in 11 home games Tuesday when they take on the Oklahoma City Thunder, who are 1-12 on the road this season.
After four straight seasons with losing records at home, Atlanta (17-10) established a home-court advantage last season. The Hawks went 25-16 at Philips during the regular season and beat the eventual champion Boston Celtics in all three games there during a first-round playoff matchup.
Though the Hawks' inability to win on the road cost them that series, they've continued their home-court dominance over the first two months of the 2008-09 season.
Atlanta is 11-2 at home, with four wins in five tries during this season-high eight-game homestand. The only loss was 88-85 to the Celtics, and Atlanta handed Cleveland its only defeat in its past 15 games as it kicked off the lengthy home stretch Dec. 15.
Mike Bibby made the difference in the latest victory, scoring a season-high 27 points and going 6-of-6 from 3-point range as the Hawks beat Detroit 85-78 on Sunday.
The Hawks are allowing 87.0 points per game over their last eight as they've moved a season-high seven games over .500.
"That says a lot about what we have added to our team," said leading scorer Joe Johnson, who's averaging 22.7 points. "I think we have improved. I definitely expect to see positive things the rest of the season."
Bibby is making 43.3 percent of his 3-pointers this season after hitting 37.5 percent in 2007-08. His overall field-goal percentage has also greatly improved, from 41.1 percent last season to 45.8 percent this season.
Improved shooting has been perhaps the lone bright spot for the Thunder (3-25) of late. Oklahoma City shot a league-worst 40.9 percent in losing 15 of its first 16 games, but has made 47.2 percent from the field over the past 12 - ninth-best in the NBA during that stretch.
More accurate shooting, however, hasn't led to more wins. The Thunder's average margin of defeat has fallen from 13.0 points over their first 16 games to 4.4 in the last 12, but they're 2-10 in that span.
The Thunder stayed close to Cleveland for most of Sunday's game at the Ford Center, but they couldn't stop LeBron James. The Cavaliers star had 31 points to lead his team to a 102-91 victory, pushing their record to 23-4.
"They're not just a good team. They're great," Oklahoma City interim coach Scott Brooks said. "One day that's what we want to be. We want to be like that."
Kevin Durant scored 27 points for the Thunder and is averaging 27.7 points, 7.7 rebounds and 2.0 steals in his last seven games.
The biggest improvement in Durant's game between his first and second seasons has been 3-point shooting. A 28.8 percent shooter from beyond the arc last season, Durant has hit 47.3 percent of his 3s in 2008-09, fourth-best in the league.
Durant had 20 points but Oklahoma City lost 89-85 when it hosted Atlanta on Nov. 9, a game the Hawks pulled out despite shooting 37.2 percent.
Atlanta hasn't beaten the Thunder franchise at home in its last five tries, losing the past two in overtime.