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NBA scores: Hawks cruising through easy stretch

Atlanta is currently riding a six-game winning streak, taking advantage of one of the softer portions of their schedule over the last two weeks.

Daniel Shirey-US PRESSWIRE

There isn't a hotter team in the NBA than the Atlanta Hawks, who have gone from a 3-4 record in the middle of November to a 9-4 mark, and 5th place in the Eastern Conference, in two weeks.

They've done that mainly by defeating some of the worst teams in the NBA, but you can only play the games in front of you, and right now, Atlanta is clicking on all cylinders.

Their success starts at the defensive end of the floor, where they currently have the No. 1 rated defense in the NBA.

That stems from their two athletic 6'9"+ shot-blockers up front, Josh Smith and Al Horford, who have the size to control the paint and the foot-speed to wall off penetration from the perimeter. Smith and Horford have combined to average 3.4 blocks a game, which makes life much easier for the Hawks' guards.

Atlanta is also getting great play from fourth-year point guard Jeff Teague, who has thrived in the bigger role given to him by coach Larry Drew after Joe Johnson's departure. Teague is averaging career highs in points (13.5), three-point shooting (47%), rebounds (2.6) and assists (7.1) and is likely playing his way into a big contract this off-season.

And while the schedule will get tougher, the good news for the Hawks is that they'll be in the Southwest Division all season, which means 12 games against three of the worst teams in the NBA -- the Magic, Wizards and Bobcats.

Photographs by coka_koehler used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.