The Atlanta Hawks, following a 91-85 win over the Philadelphia 76ers, extend their winning streak to 19, which means they’re the first team this season to reach 40 victories, and can only be compared to other great regular season teams in NBA history, although their championship credentials won’t be tested until much later this season.
Al Horford scored 23 points to go along with his 11 rebounds as the Hawks overcame the difficult challenge the 76ers often present to teams with their defense, holding the Hawks to 43.6% from the field. Michael Carter-Williams makes things very difficult for point guards and that was the case against Jeff Teague, holding him to just 3-of-12 from the field. Playing without both Thabo Sefolosha and DeMarre Carroll obviously hurt the Hawks as well, giving someone like Kent Bazemore who isn’t team oriented in his style more minutes than they’d like.
Besides Horford it was another good game for Paul Millsap with 15 points, a solid shooting performance from Kyle Korver, scoring 14 points on four 3-pointers and another fantastic game off the bench for Dennis Schroeder, scoring 15 points to go with five rebounds and six assists. the Hawks didn’t have much trouble holding the 76ers offense, the weaker half of their equation, to just 38.3% from the field, getting half their points off of 14 3-pointers, hitting 40% of their shots from outside the arc but only 60% of their attempts from the line.
The Hawks finish January at 17-0, the most games won by an NBA team in an undefeated month, beating the mark set by the Spurs last March (16-0), the Clippers in December 2012, the Spurs in March of 1996 and the Lakers in December of 1971. The 2014 Spurs and the 1972 Lakers were the two teams that ended up winning the title backed by those special runs.
The last team to go undefeated in January and in fact the only other team are the 1996 Chicago Bulls. Those Bulls finished the season at 72-10, still the best record in NBA regular season history, and won the first of three consecutive league titles after beating the Seattle Supersonics in the NBA finals that year. No one dreamed the Hawks would be in that position at this point, but we’re beginning February and they’re on top of the league and the East. Making it even more remarkable is their 38-44 from last season, enough for an 8th spot and a first round playoff exit.