By Frank McLean
Heading into the playoffs the Atlanta Hawks are one the NBA’s hottest teams.
After the Hawks 95-87 win over the Toronto Raptors at home Thursday night, Atlanta is now 16-5 in their last 21 games and with the playoffs starting a week from now, you would have to say they are peaking at the right time.
During that 21 game stretch two of the Hawks losses were in Toronto, but also included in that group of games was a west coast trip in which they went 3-1 with the only loss coming in overtime against the Golden State Warriors.
Hawks guard Kyle Korver says that trip was the beginning of the club starting to peak at the right time in the schedule.
“It’s all about peaking at the right time,” Korver said. “There were a lot of positives that came out of that west coast trip. We had a chance to make it a great trip even with the overtime loss with the Warriors We just have to keep on plugging.”
Meanwhile Hawks head coach Mike Budenholzer, who is part of the Greg Popovich coaching tree and like Popovich does not get wrapped up about peaking at the right time talk puts this all in perspective.
“We have to keep playing well,” Budenholzer said when the Hawks were in Toronto. “There are some details offensively and defensively that we need to keep getting better on.
“As soon as you start thinking about it (peaking at the right time), you can’t. You need to just go out and do it every night on the court. It’s more important than worrying about how you are playing.”
Budenholzer went on to say that he feels that in the end it’s always the best team that wins in the playoffs.
“One of the great things about the playoffs at the end of it the best team wins. When you get to the playoffs there are some teams that are pretty equal. They are deep balanced and very close and who can execute and get things done. That can make the difference and that’s part of the playoffs, in seven games usually the best team wins.”
Last season the Hawks surprised everyone with a 60-win season and first place in the Eastern Conference.
They were knocked out of the playoffs in the conference finals by the team all the pundits had finishing first, the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The Hawks currently sit at 47 wins and with three games left against Boston, Cleveland and Washington, if they run the table they can join Toronto and Cleveland as a 50-win team.
Right now a Atlanta vs Toronto playoff series could happen in the second round and if that happens it would be interesting to see who is the best team in a seven game set? However, Toronto did win the regular season series 3-1.
One thing for sure the Hawks are playing their best basketball of the season at the right time and look like they could be a problem to whoever their opponent will be in the playoffs.
Veteran journalist Frank McLean has covered nearly every Raptors game in Toronto since their inaugural season at the Skydome back in 1995-96. He has seen it all. The good, the bad and the really bad and he is one of the very few journalists in Toronto that has kept coming back for more.