With last night’s 13-point loss to the Bulls, the Atlanta Hawks finally fell out of the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference. They find themselves in a virtual deadlock with the New York Knicks, with the current difference between the two teams a winning percentage of .002. Just two games further back, we find the in form Cleveland Cavaliers, although time may well be against them. It has been a remarkable turnaround, as almost two months ago to the day, the Hawks were flying high in the third spot, the Knicks were 6.5 games behind, and the Cavs were 9.5 back, nowhere to be seen in the playoff picture.
The Hawks form dropped off a cliff in that month though, mostly because of injuries, and Atlanta went on a run that would see them lose 15 of 16 games. The Knicks also struggled in February, but they hit top form in March, going 11-5 to pull themselves back into contention, while Cleveland has gradually chipped away at the gap since February. With much of the story of these teams season’s centered around momentum, and runs, it’s now a case of who can the seize opportunity and make one last run at it.
As this race for the final spot has heated up, the Hawks have been left with a couple of advantages. Firstly, they have played two games less than both the Knicks and Cavaliers, so they have the advantage of showing one game less in the loss column over New York and three games less than Cleveland, knowing that their fate is completely in their own hands. Secondly, the Hawks have a considerably easier schedule than the Knicks. Four of the Hawks remaining eight games come against teams who are going to miss the playoffs, while all six of the Knicks remaining matches are against playoff teams.
Let’s take a look at the Hawks remaining schedule to try and anticipate how things might pan out.