The Hawks have won five of six games. Joe and Jamal are getting healthier. Their defense looks better. They play four of their next five at home. They’ve survived a grueling schedule despite injuries to sit a half game behind Orlando for fourth place in the East.The volume of back-to-backs the Hawks have played (12 so far) certainly has been grueling (though they've swept five of those back-to-backs and are 15-9 in those 24 games), they've played more games than any other NBA team, and they've played 21 of their 38 games on the road but, if one looks at the quality of opponent the Hawks have faced, they've played the third-easiest schedule in the league.
This is how the Hawks can both rank 7th in John Hollinger's power rankings this morning (one spot ahead of the Lakers) and project to finish the season with the league's ninth best record according to Hollinger's playoff odds.
Last night's blowout win in Utah moved the Hawks from being outscored by 6.8 to being outscored by 4.2 points per 100 possessions against teams with a winning record. A Memphis Grizzlies winning streak could improve those numbers even more but it's fair to assume the Hawks will win somewhat less often as the opponents on the schedule gets tougher.
I suspect it's imperative the Hawks pile up wins over the next seventeen games as they're scheduled to play just four teams (Miami, New Orleans, New York, and Dallas) with a winning record between now and Valentine's Day. The following stretch--12 of 14 games against teams with a winning record over a 30-day stretch--will likely reveal more about how well the Hawks should be expected to play in a seven-game playoff series against a quality opponent but the Hawks can improve their chances of securing home-court advantage (which could well be the deciding factor) in the first-round by continuing to beat up on lesser teams between now and then.