Friday , Dec , 08 , 2006 C.Y. Ellis

Improving Hawks searching for more consistency

(Sports Network) – The first three encounters of the Atlanta Hawks’ current
five-game west coast road trip have been proof enough that the downtrodden
club has clearly been making progress. But the team’s recent play also shows
there’s still room for improvement.

The Hawks have alternated wins and losses in each of their last six outings,
and that recent trend has been symbolic with their current 8-9 record on the
season. While that mark appears quite mediocre on the surface, remember that
we’re discussing a franchise that hasn’t had reached the playoffs in any of
the last seven seasons.

While Atlanta hasn’t posted consecutive victories in nearly a month,
Wednesday’s gutty performance against Denver could very well be the
springboard that propels Mike Woodson’s young club into a lengthy winning run.

The Hawks trailed the potent Nuggets by as much as 17 points in the fourth
quarter, but put together a spirited rally to pull out a 98-96 decision that
was easily one of their most notable road triumphs of the season.

“It’s a huge win,” said Woodson afterward. “Denver is a well-coached team with
talent. This is a big win for our team and I’m just proud of our locker room.”

What made Wednesday’s win even more impressive was that Atlanta played without
two starters in center Zaza Pachulia and guard Speedy Claxton, plus key
reserves Marvin Williams and Josh Childress.

Pachulia was serving a one-game suspension by the NBA for flagrantly throwing
an elbow to Seattle’s Johan Petro during the Hawks’ 102-87 to the SuperSonics
on Tuesday.

The shorthanded Hawks will soon get some reinforcements, however. Williams,
the talented second-year forward who has missed the entire season so far with
a broken hand, has been cleared to play and could be in uniform when Atlanta
visits the Lakers on Friday.

The Hawks, who opened this five-game swing with a 107-96 win at Portland on
December 3, will wind up the trip Monday at Sacramento.