After only winning five of their last 10 games, the Atlanta Hawks are being strongly challenged by the Chicago Bulls for the fifth seed in the eastern Conference. Not only are the Hawks just .500 over their last 10, but they are also just 10-9 since the All-Star break and now hold just a half-game lead over the Bulls in the standings.
Atlanta beat the Milwaukee Bucks Sunday to maintain a slim lead over the Bulls and will need to continue to win consistently if they want to retain their current seeding. If the season ended today the Hawks would be looking at a first round meeting with the Brooklyn Nets who — although they are playing better of late — are a better match up for the Hawks than the Indiana Pacers or New York Knicks, both potential opponents if the Hawks drop to sixth in the standings and both teams the Hawks face in the coming week.
Many thought the Hawks would trade forward Josh Smith around the trade deadline in late February but the Hawks decided to hold on to the pending free agent for the remainder of the season, hoping Smith could help them on their road to the postseason. While Smith has still been good for Atlanta, the Hawks could have benefited by trading him away for assets for the future.
The Hawks have a few games against sub-.500 teams coming up this week but also face a couple of playoff teams, and Atlanta needs to pick it up if they want to hold off the Bulls. Staying in the fifth seed or dropping to sixth could mean the difference in advancing to the second round or getting eliminated in the first for the Atlanta Hawks.