Six in a row.
The Hawks picked up where they left off following two impressive road wins with a decisive win over a depleted Nuggets team, 96-84. The Hawks last won six straight in November of 2012.
They are rolling, no doubt. The 13-6 Hawks lead the Southeast Division and are second in the Eastern Conference. They have led by at least 16 points in five of the past six games.
Here are my five observations of Sunday’s win:
1. One first-half turnover. The Hawks took a commanding lead in the first half. They outscored the Nuggets 32-21 in the first quarter and did not commit a turnover. They held a 25-15 advantage in the second quarter and had just one turnover. That came when Kent Bazemore stepped out of bounds with 1:48 left in the half. By that time the Hawks led by as many as 21 points. The Nuggets would get as close as seven points in the second half but could never come all the way back.
“We came out and got a little bit of a cushion with our defense,” coach Mike Budenholzer said.
2. It did get interesting. As good as the Hawks were at protecting the ball, they were that bad in the third quarter. They committed seven turnovers in the period as the Nuggets held a 30-20 advantage to close their deficit. Jeff Teague, Paul Millsap and Dennis Schroder all had two turnovers in the period. The third-quarter breakdown will give Budenholzer film examples as he pushes his team to play a 48-minute game.
“That was a big part of the problem,” Budenholzer said. “There were a couple where you have to give their defense credit. There were probably a couple where we weren’t as smart with the ball as we needed to be and keep the same mental approach the entire quarter.”
3. Take care of business. The Hawks have not had a tough schedule. That is why winning these games, especially at home, is so important. It will get tougher. The Hawks still have sub-.500 teams Indiana (Monday), Philadelphia (Wednesday) and Orlando (Friday and Saturday) this week. Then they have Chicago, Cleveland, Houston, Dallas and the L.A. Clippers next.
The Hawks are 9-2 at home and 4-4 on the road.
“A veteran once told me that if you win half your road games and most of your home games then you are a good team, a really good team,” Kyle Korver said.
4. It’s still about defense. The Hawks held the opposition to below .400 from the field and below .200 from 3-point range in each of the past two games. They are 5-0 this season when they limit an opponent to below .400 shooting.
“There is always room of improvement,” Paul Millsap said. “We are playing good basketball right now, especially on the defensive end. We just have to keep it up.”
5. Paul Millsap is having an All-Star season. The power forward had a team-high 23 points. It was the third time this season he has scored at least 20 points. He was 6 of 13 from the field, after going 1 of 6 from the field in the first half. Millsap added to his NBA-league steal total with four thefts. He has been impressive this season.
“I settled down a little bit,” Millsap said of his second half.