Don’t look now, but the Atlanta Hawks are poised to advance in the playoffs on the strength of their current five-game winning streak and excellent performances from point guard Trae Young.

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The Hawks overcame a slow start to defeat the Sacramento Kings 121-104, and now sit within two games of the eighth-seeded Boston Celtics. During this winning streak, they managed to defeat the defending champion Milwaukee Bucks and the Miami Heat, currently the leaders in the East.

It was only a couple of weeks ago that the Hawks’ season was already being canceled, but led by their All-Star point guard Young, who this week was named NBA Eastern Conference Paymaster of the Week for the second time this season, Atlanta. is now looking like a viable threat heading into the second half of the season.

Young earned Player of the Week honors for helping lead the Hawks to a 4-0 record in that time span while averaging 31.3 points, nine assists and four rebounds on 46.4 percent shooting from the floor and 47.6 split shooting. percent from beyond the arc. . He started the winning streak with two double-doubles, giving him 21 on the season, which ranks fourth among all shooting guards and second in the East behind James Harden.

Against the Kings he finished with 17 points, ten assists and three rebounds.

However, the success of the Hawks is not due to Young alone. Reserves have played a big role, especially Onyeka Okongwu (18 points off the bench against Sacramento). Okongwu has filled in nicely when Clint Capela has been out of Atlanta. He has doubled his season scoring average to 9.8 points per game from 4.6 last season.

The Hawks, at least in recent seasons, have had a top-tier offense. Last season, they were ninth in the league in offensive rating. This season, they are seconds. On the defensive end is where they have struggled in 2023-22.

For the season, they rank 27th in the league in defensive rating, however over the course of this winning streak, they rank 8th with the Chicago Bulls.

“I felt like the only thing keeping us from getting to where we want to be was really the defensive end,” Capela said. “We can score 130, 140, but other teams against us are doing the same thing, which doesn’t always give us a great chance to win.”

“I feel like we just roll the dice or roll the penny and by doing this now, by getting better defensively, we’re giving ourselves a better chance to win. When you keep a team under 100 points, especially for a team as good offensively as us, it’s huge. That’s what it will come down to.”

The Hawks are growing, and not too soon, according to head coach Nate McMillan.

“We still have injuries and we’re trying to get guys back, but we’re playing basketball that gives us a chance to win games now.”