With a 105-99 win over the Portland Trail Blazers, the Atlanta Hawks winning streak extends to an NBA-best 18 games, once again displaying the kind of team basketball which should serve as a blueprint for the entire league.
Six players scored in double figures, with Paul Millsap leading the way, scoring 21 points. Millsap is one of three Hawks players on the Eastern All-Star team bench. The other two All-Stars are Al Horford and Jeff Teague. Horford scored 17 points to go with 8 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 steals while Teague finished with 13 points, 7 rebounds and 8 assists.
Kyle Korver who’ll be in the All-Star game in the capacity of a 3-point shooter in the competition scored 16 points with “only” 2-of-4 from beyond the arc. Thabo Sefolosha started for DeMarre Carroll but lasted only two minutes before leaving with a calf strain. This meant more minutes for Kent Bazemore (40), scoring 12 points, and also Mike Scott got a piece of the action, finishing with 11.
The Blazers continue to rely on LaMarcus Aldridge doing everything by himself, scoring 37 points, showing that his injury that requires a surgery he’s not going to do isn’t that serious after all. Damian Lillard, maybe because of the All-Star game snub, didn’t do too well. He scored 13 points on 6-of-20 from the field, including 1-of-9 from beyond the arc. He turned the ball over six times, but at least had 11 assists.
The Hawks now own the best record in the NBA at 39-8 due to the Warriors continuing to lose. It’s the first time the Hawks have held the best record in the NBA since moving to Atlanta in the 1968-1969 season. With a 7 game lead on top of the East, they are the 6th team in the last 20 seasons to have such a lead in the conference with less than 50 games played. Three of the last five teams with such a lead reached the NBA finals, but the last of them were the 2001 76ers. The Bulls in 1997 are the last to win the title.
And a sense of pessimism? There’s always the fear of peaking too soon. Think of the Clippers in the 2012-2013 season and their 17-game win streak through December. The Hawks are the 4th team since the merger with a win streak of 17 games or more before February 1. None of the previous teams went on to even make the conference finals.