What goes up must come down, they say. The gravitational pull is usually to blame. And the Atlanta Hawks have decidedly crashed down to Earth in a slump that threatens to leave them back in the middle of the NBA pack after three years of flying high.
After starting 9-2, the Hawks have won only twice in 12 games headed into Friday’s visit to the Milwaukee Bucks where they’re 2.25 just to win. And it’s not hard to see where the slide begins.
At the outset, their offense and defence were ranked in the league’s top two. Now, they’ve dipped to 27th in defensive efficiency – allowing an average of 102.0 per night. And while they trail only the LA Clippers in the offensive numbers, they’re struggling to get and make decent shots.
Watching what was a much-needed win on Wednesday against the Miami Heat, it was only a mirage with Dwight Howard their most effective performer by turning scraps into a meal.
Dennis Schroder often cut through the lanes like a ballerina before sending his lay-up dancing past the target. Ball movement is a far cry from two seasons ago when they looked a threat to Cleveland for Eastern supremacy.
And some of their losses of late have exposed a motivational dip with defeats to Toronto, Detroit and Utah by over 25 points.
They can, at least, point to a 105-100 win over the Bucks last month when Paul Millsap scored 25 points in a result built off a dominating second quarter.
But Milwaukee is playing well, winning four of their last five including a 17-point rout of the Cavs, and their defence is growing in stature with the same efficiency mark as Golden State.
Atlanta remains acutely vulnerable and the hosts on a -7.5 handicap look a solid offering. And unless the Hawks adjust, it may take them a while to re-find their wings.
Best bet: Go over 208.5 total points in Bucks-Hawks
The Philadelphia 76ers finally ended a long long wait for a road win (23 games in fact) in New Orleans on Thursday and there is a sense of a rise coming. On Sunday, they’ll visit the Detroit Pistons who have maddeningly mixed up defeats to strugglers with shocks over contenders of late.
Detroit on a -9.5 handicap or going over 122.5 total points remains worth a look. But expect the Sixers to find their next victory away from home comes much sooner than their last so keep an eye on clashes with fellow strugglers.