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Nate McMillan’s track record in the NBA as a head coach hasn’t been Hall of Fame worthy, but after leading an underrated Pacers team to the playoffs last year and changing the trajectory of the Hawks this season his success only continues to grow.
Since the firing of former head coach Lloyd Pierce in early March, the Hawks have gone on a 7-game win streak under interim head coach Nate McMillan. The Hawks hadn’t seen a winning streak over 5 games since the 2016-2017 season with Mike Budenholzer at the helm and a failed Dwight Howard experiment.
Under McMillan, the Hawks have an overall record of 9-1 and have moved to 5th in the Eastern Conference standings, six spots higher than their previous standing as the 11th seed. The Hawks’ inability to close games in the fourth quarter is what lead to Pierce’s exit and have since turned into one of the best fourth quarter teams over the last 7-game stretch. In the fourth quarter of that stretch, the Hawks ranked in the top five of multiple major statistical categories, according to Clutch Points. Atlanta also outscored teams 159-103 in the fourth quarter through their first four games in March.
McMillan’s also had a major impact on the emergence of players who had rough starts to the season under Pierce’s system. Danilo Gallinari and Bogdan Bogdanovic have both had their fair share of injuries this season, but they’ve looked like different players after the All-Star break.
With the absence of Hunter, Gallinari has picked up the offensive load by averaging 17 points and shooting 49 percent from the field in the month of March. Bogdanovic also poured in a season-high 23 points after missing nearly two months with a knee injury. The Hawks are finally seeing the benefits of their decision to go all-in on free agency this past offseason with the depth of the team returning as players get healthy.
The full potential of the Hawks remains to be unseen as the team hasn’t had a fully healthy roster all season, but fans could see a glimpse of that with Kris Dunn and De’Andre Hunter possibly returning toward the end of their current road trip. Atlanta may not be considered be a top-tier contender like the Lakers, Nets, or Sixers but it’s safe to say Nate McMillan has this team on the right path in order to gain experience in the playoffs.