This one tops them all.
The Hawks clearly got their best win of the season by running the Cavaliers out of their own building in a 127-98 victory Wednesday night.
The win proved one thing to be very clear – the Hawks are for real. They are one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference, no doubt.
The Hawks (18-7) avenged a loss at the Cavaliers last month, a game they trailed by 30 points, in impressive fashion. The Hawks were down by as many as 12 points in the second quarter in this one before they turned it on. Before the Cavaliers knew it, the Hawks led by as many as 31 points.
Shelvin Mack lifted the Hawks with a career-high 24 points, including 6-for-6 from 3-point range.
Here are my five observations from the game:
1. No Jeff Teague. No problem. With the Hawks starting point guard out with a hamstring injury, Mack was huge. He scored 17 second-quarter points as the Hawks took back control of a game they trailed early. Dennis Schroder started in place of Teague and finished with 10 points and 10 assists. Combined, Mack and Schroder finished with 34 points and 13 assists. Through it all, Teague was on the bench cheering each play.
2. The second quarter was the difference. After allowing the Cavaliers 34 first-quarter points, the Hawks put up 39 second-quarter points. Mack made five of his 3-pointers in the period. The Hawks were 9 of 11 from long range, setting a franchise record for 3-pointers in a quarter. The icing on the cake was Mike Scott hitting a 28-footer at the buzzer to give the Hawks a 65-60 lead.
It was a 14-0 run that brought the Hawks back. They trailed 52-41 with 5:48 remaining in the half. Just 2:22 later, Mack hit one of his 3-pointers to put the Hawks up 55-52. They would never trail again.
3. The Hawks had a season-best night. They shot 64.5 percent (49 of 76) from the field, made 16 3-pointers and scored 127 points, all tops this year. The Hawks built such a lead that LeBron James played just 29 minutes. He did not play the entire fourth quarter as the Hawks took a 95-75 lead after three. The Hawks got 66 points from their bench.
4. Al Horford had another strong game. He finished with 20 points on 10 of 14 shooting. In the past six games, Horford is averaging 18.7 points and 7.0 rebounds. The center is clearly back to form following a torn pectoral muscle ended his season after 29 games last year. Horford was especially big when Paul Millsap picked up two early fouls and had to sit.
5. The Hawks have won 13 of 15 games since they dropped two straight in November – that lopsided loss at the Cavaliers on the 15th and at home to the one-win Lakers on the 18th. After that game, a fiery film session was held. The Hawks responded with their current run – with an improved defense being the central theme. The Hawks offense will be there. However, this team has embraced its defensive identity. There is still work to be done. Much of the Hawks current success has come against inferior teams with a home-heavy schedule. However, wins at the Wizards, at the Nets, versus the Bulls and now at the Cavaliers are quality victories.