The Atlanta Hawks pick up a 12th consecutive win, this time beating the Chicago Bulls 107-99 as their ball movement and shooting overwhelmed yet another team, led by an excellent Jeff Teague, a resurgent Al Horford and a can’t miss Kyle Korver.
The Hawks are now up to 33-8, marking the end of the first half of the season for them. They’ve gone 26-2 since thanksgiving, the best record in the NBA over that time. Over that time, they lead the NBA in defensive efficiency (96.3 points per 100 possession), 70% of their field goals come off assists (leading the league) and also lead the NBA in opposition field goal percentage, keeping teams at 42.4% from the field. The Bulls didn’t shoot that badly, hitting 46.3% of their shots but their defense being unable to stop players from getting open was the bigger problem.
When so many things are executed so well, it says something about the team’s coach, Mike Budenholzer, who comes from the Gregg Popovich coaching tree. When you figure that one out, it comes as no surprise that the Hawks are playing such efficient basketball, without any shred of selfishness and look so in sync with one another on both ends of the floor, with Jeff Teague doing an incredible job of getting everyone open while Paul Millsap plays the part of the big man who acts as a pivot at times.
Kyle Korver might have hit shots from everywhere without a problem, most of them after being left wide open, but that came thanks to the work of Teague, who got by his man time and time again to create mismatches and open looks for his teammates. He scored 17 points and added 11 assists, making up for shooting only 5-of-16 from the field. Kyle Korver, playing against his former team, made 7-of-9 from beyond the arc to score 24 points and Al Horford made the Bulls pay for leaving him open from mid range, scoring 22 points to go with his 9 rebounds.
The Bulls’ defense has looked this way on more than one occasion. Maybe Joakim Noah not playing made things worse, but even with him they’ve found it hard to live up to standards they’ve gotten us used to in years past. Derrick Rose is playing very well of late, scoring 23 points to go with 8 rebounds and 10 assists, but the bench mob didn’t really manage to dominate during their minutes on the floor, while Jimmy Butler continues to go through a rough patch which is going on for more than two weeks, this time scoring 15 points and struggling to get to the line.
Are the Hawks the best team in the NBA? They’re the hottest one without a doubt, winning in Toronto and Chicago on back to back nights. Their basketball might be the most fun to watch in the league, and it seems to be working at home and on the road (12 in a row there as well). The Bulls have the potential to be NBA champions or contend for the title. But something isn’t clicking there as well as it has been for the Hawks, and it’s deeper than just players missing from time to time.