The Other Side: Atlanta Hawks

You've got to be kidding me! (Photo by Scott Cunningham/NBAE via Getty Images)

The Atlanta Hawks entered the all-star break with 31 wins, the most at the break since since 1996-97, when Mookie Blaylock, Dikembe Mutombo, Steve Smith and Christain Laettner led the franchise to 56 wins -- the second-most in franchise history. These current Hawks (33-26) are on pace to win just 46 games, but not if they continue to play like they have since returning from the festivities in Phoenix.

The Hawks have lost five of their past seven games, including a disappointing, 88-87 loss to Cleveland in which they blew a late fourth-quarter lead and -- where have you seen this before? -- LeBron James was awarded a phantom foul with 1.6 seconds left to hit the decisive free throw. The Cavaliers game, which was on ESPN, yielded a rare sellout crowd at Phillips Arena that included Spike Lee, Bill Murray, Ciara and Christina Milan. Despite the latest funk, the Hawks still rank fourth in the Eastern Conference and would have home-court advantage in the first round against Miami if the season ended today.

The Hawks had a brief two-game homestand against Miami and Cleveland and will head back on the road for a three-game trip to Washington, New York and Charlotte. Afterward, the Hawks will have 11 of the next 13 games at home, where they are 20-7 this season, including a 111-90 win against the Wizards on Feb. 10. The Hawks have won the previous three meetings this season and are looking to sweep the season series against Washington for the first time since 1997-98.
Here is what you should know about the Hawks as they prepare to play the Washington Wizards tonight at Verizon Center:

1. Al Horford Is Rolling
It took some time for Al Horford to get his game rhythm back after missing 12 games in January with an ankle injury. But Horford has been playing great basketball of late, averaging 13.6 points and 10.9 rebounds over his past eight games. He was whistled for the foul against James, but continues to put up big numbers. Horford has recorded double-doubles in his past three games, averaging 17.3 points and 14.3 rebounds. In the Hawks' win against Miami on Firday, Horford had 21 points and 22 rebounds, becoming the first Hawk to have a 20-20 game since Dikembe Mutombo had 21 points and 29 rebounds on Jan. 31, 2001.

On top of his improved performance, Horford can also be seen slow dancing with R&B singer Ciara and the end of her new video for "Never Ever," featuring Young Jeezy. The song is really, really cheesy, but if you take the time to watch the video, you'll also see someone I went to high school with back in Kansas City. The girl who says that a duck with a Bentley is "a keeper," is Jamaica Craft, the accomplished choreographer for Ciara and a graduate of Lincoln Prep.

2. Josh Smith Is Not Rolling
One of the reasons why the Hawks have struggled of late is that Josh Smith has been in a funk. Smith is averaging 15.4 points and 7.2 rebounds this season, but he hasn't reached his scoring average since scoring 16 points with 15 rebounds against the Los Angeles Clippers on Feb. 7. And he has grabbed seven or more rebounds only twice in his last eight games. Over that stretch, Smith is averaging just 10.9 points and four rebounds and missed a game against Denver for personal reasons.

3. The Hawks Love the Snow
The snowstorm that is taking over the East Coast today won't throw off the Hawks much since they already had a rare deposit of the white stuff over the weekend. Zaza Pachulia, a native of Georgia (the country, not the state), was elated to see snow for the first time. Pachulia had 11 points and eight rebounds off the bench against Cleveland on Sunday. Pachulia has played well in two games against Washington this season, grabbing 30 rebounds, including 17 offensive.

By Michael Lee |  March 2, 2009; 4:34 PM ET The Other Side
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You are right about that Ciara song. Very corny. A rip off of Harold Melvin and the Bluenotes!

Posted by: nicefellow31 | March 2, 2009 5:28 PM

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