The Atlanta Hawks keep making history with every game they play, always ending in a win, this time 112-100 over the Minnesota Timberwolves, extending their franchise record winning streak to 16.
Once again, all five starters for the Hawks scored in double figures. Who would have guesses that taking a coach that learned from Gregg Popovich for over a decade will turn a team into one of the more fun to watch groups in the league? Actually, it makes sense. Give talented yet not elite players the right system to work in, and it’s not hard to believe they’ll do very well, although it always has to come with a personality that makes it possible for the system to thrive.
Paul Millsap led the Hawks against the Timberwolves with 20 points, 5 rebounds, 6 assists and 4 blocks. Al Horford had only one miss as he went to score 19 points followed by Jeff Teague with 15 points and 7 assists, DeMarre Carroll with 14 points and Kyle Korver hitting “only” 50% of his 3-point attempts to score 13. Dennis Schroeder added 11 off the bench, with the Hawks taking almost only open shots, not trying to force anything, which explains their 56.3% from the field.
At 37-8, the Hawks are treading new ground all the time. They’ve never been with 37 wins before the All-Star break and there are still nine games to go. This is the third time in franchise history with a win streak of 12 games or more. The last time it happened was in the 1993-1994 season, which led to them finishing first (tied) in the conference. They are 29-2 over their last 31 games and teams that go on such impressive runs often end up in very high places. The last to do it? The Miami Heat in the 2012-2013 season (37-2 stretch), ending up as NBA champions.
The Timberwolves have been in tank mode for a long time. Although they have competition from the Los Angeles Lakers to be the worst in the West and maybe the league (Knicks and 76ers in that race too), they’re in the lead. Thaddeus Young scored 26 points and Mo Williams added 20, but the moment injuries started befalling them, Flip Saunders didn’t think twice about not hurrying anyone’s return. So what if the team hasn’t made the playoffs since 2004? Getting a high draft pick is more important.
The Hawks had a few opportunities in recent years to break up the package and go tanking in hope of a future through draft and cap space. But they never rebuilt. They simply made fixes in motion. There’s nothing wrong with winning and a culture of success, even if it doesn’t end with a title. Smart management from the front office and good coaching makes up for not having the best players in the league. This season is the proof of that.