The Hawks are on a roll not seen in these parts in decades.
The Hawks defeated the Clippers, 107-104, despite going 5:35 in the second quarter without scoring. The victory moved the Hawks to 21-7 overall and 13-2 at home. They have won 14 of their past 15 games. They have won five straight – against the likes of the Bulls, Cavaliers, Rockets, Mavericks and Clippers. They defeated the Clippers for the sixth straight time at Philips Arena. They have won eight straight at home.
The superlatives are numerous.
DeMarre Carroll scored a career-high 25 points, including going 5 of 6 from 3-point range, and had 10 rebounds to lead the Hawks. Al Horford added 20 points and Paul Millsap had 17 in the victory.
Here are my five observations from the game:
1. The most impressive part of this win was the fact that the Hawks were not sharp defensively in the first half. They allowed the Clippers 14 fast-break points in the first two periods. It was a statistic that coach Mike Budenholzer mentioned at intermission.
“That was something we talked about at halftime,” Budenholzer said. “Fourteen to zero at halftime (in fastbreak points) and they finished with 14 points. That is where our defense always has to start, with our transition defense.”
2. During the previously mentioned scoring drought that lasted 5:35, the Clippers went on a 17-0 run. They would lead by as many as 10 points in the first half. It didn’t stop the Hawks. They got aggressive and were 12 of 16 from the free-throw line while the Clippers were 4 of 6 in the third quarter. The Hawks trailed by just two points after three quarter despite trailing by as many as 13 points. Then came a 9-0 run to start the fourth quarter. Mike Scott hit a basket and a pair of free throws. Kyle Korver hit a 3-pointer. Horford scored a bucket. Korver’s 3-pointer broke an 83-83 tie and the Hawks never trailed again.
3. Budenholzer made an interesting move to start Dennis Schroder over Jeff Teague, who returned after missing three games with a left hamstring strain. Schroder was not as strong as he had been. He committed four turnovers, three in the second quarter. In the end, each point guard played 23:51. Teague had nine points and six assists. Schroder had five points and four assists.
4. Carroll is becoming a legitimate scoring threat. He is averaging 12.3 points per game and it has been his 3-point shooting that has lifted the Hawks. He is the second-leading 3-point shooter on the team (behind Korver of course) at 41.6 percent. He has 42 long-distance makes in 24 games. On Tuesday, Carroll recorded his second double-double of the season and the first 20-point, 10-rebound game of his career.
5. Most of the Hawks are not putting too much emphasis of the past five wins. However, they are impressive. The last five opponents were a combined 87-40 (.685) entering their games against the Atlanta. That is the highest combined winning percentage for any teams the Hawks have beaten in five straight games. The old record was 12-6 (.667) from Nov. 4-11, 1997.
“The thing is, you can’t say ‘We’ve got it figured out,’” Horford said. “Realistically, there are things we can do to get better. But I have to give my teammates credit. Five wins against five of these kinds of opponents. If you would have told us before we started against these five opponents I would have been ‘I don’t know. It’s going to test us where we are as a team.’ This is big for us.”