A couple of years ago — before Dwight Howard came home to try once again to prove he’s a championship-calibre big man — the Atlanta Hawks were the surprise of the NBA. Playing without a big name superstar, the Coach-of-the-Year-Mike Budenholzer-led Hawks used Al Horford, Kyle Korver, Paul Millsap and Jeff Teague to join the Eastern Conference elite. Yet they couldn’t do it in the playoffs. Now of that group, only Millsap and Budenholzer remain.
But the new Hawks may be well constituted for the playoffs. They’ve won four straight, secured fifth place, and they enter with a .500 road record — an important factor. Dwight Howard says the “playoffs are going to be great for us.” The Hawks should indeed be a load of trouble in the playoffs, especially if Howard, as he did last game, shoots 71.4% from the line and 77.8% from the field, scoring 19 points and grabbing 12 boards in just 24 minutes. Ilyasova, Schroder, Prince, Sefolosha, Humphries, Hardaway and Dunleavy all help make the Hawks a tough out.