The Atlanta Hawks notched an important victory on Wednesday night. Looking to put themselves in better position for the NBA Playoffs and playing without two of their best players, Josh Smith and Jeff Teague, the Hawks were still able to secure a 96-92 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers.
The important thing about that win is that it brought Atlanta’s record to 35-29 and put them in a three-way tie for the five-seed in the Eastern Conference with the Boston Celtics and the Chicago Bulls. Though getting the five-seed wouldn’t mean home-court advantage in the first round of the postseason, it would mean an exponentially better chance at winning the first-round series.
Because of tie-breakers, the Hawks would still end up with the seven-seed if the season ended today. That means that they would have to play a first round series against the Indiana Pacers, the second-best defensive team in the NBA, as well as a young team that’s hungry to prove themselves in the playoffs this season. Essentially, the Pacers aren’t really a team that you want to meet in a playoff series.
However, if the Hawks are able to finish the last few weeks of the season strongly, their fate would be dramatically different for the postseason. If Atlanta was to somehow climb ahead of the Bulls and Celtics and secure the five-seed, they would then face the Brooklyn Nets, an inconsistent and unproven team, in the first round. That would be a much more favorable matchup for the Hawks.
Much of how Atlanta will fare in the postseason depends on the last month or so that remains in the regular season. They are in a position right now to improve their seeding in the playoffs, which will allow them the opportunity to play an opponent that seems more beatable. All that the Hawks have to do now is take advantage of the opportunity.