The winning streak has hit 15 – a franchise-record 15.
The Hawks disposed of the Thunder Friday night 103-93 with a strong second half. The Hawks (36-8, 19-3 home) are 3-0 on their current season-long seven-game homestand. You figured the Thunder would be the biggest obstacle for the Hawks now that the Trail Blazers are without LaMarcus Aldridge and possibly Nicolas Batum. The Hawks led by as many as 15 over the Thunder and had Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka bickering in the fourth quarter.
The final four games on the stand include the sub-.500 Timberwolves, Nets and 76ers along with the Trail Blazers. In other words, the Hawks have a real chance of going undefeated for the month of January.
Perhaps I get ahead of myself. Here are my five observations from the win over the Thunder:
1. It didn’t appear the Hawks did much different in defense of Kevin Durant. DeMarre Carroll drew the primary assignment with several others, including Thabo Sefolosha, taking on the Thunder star. There was the normal help defense but you have to give credit to the one-on-one work in holding Durant to 21 points on 8 of 22 shooting, including 3 of 9 from 3-point range. A lot can also be said for the defensive work Jeff Teague and Dennis Schroder did on Westbrook, who scored 13 first-quarter points and nine points the rest of the way. Any talk that the Hawks can’t handle a quality opponent in a playoff series has been proven to be incorrect, at least to me, a long time ago. This team has too many quality wins – at home and on the road.
2. One of the most interesting stats from the night was that the Hawks out-rebounded the Thunder 47-36. Al Horford and Paul Millsap had 12 and 10 rebounds, respectively. All 10 players that entered the game for the Hawks had at least one rebound.
3. Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer makes a big deal of the way his team finishes both halves. The Hawks held the Thunder to 17 second-quarter points and 18 fourth-quarter points. The Hawks turned a five-point deficit into a one-point lead in the final three minutes of the second quarter. The Thunder missed 10 of their first 11 shots, with a shot-clock violation turnover, to start the fourth quarter as the Hawks built their big lead.
4. The Hawks continued to preach the one-game-at-a-time philosophy even as their post-game locker room was as crowded as it has ever been. They will leave it to others to be impressed by the 15-game win streak, the wins in 29 of the last 31 games, the 31-1 record when leading by double-digits at any point during the game and the franchise-record 10 consecutive wins against the Western Conference.
“It’s a good accomplishment but it’s just another win,” Millsap said.
Kyle Korver said he was unaware of the franchise record win streak until it was mentioned to him after the tying win over the Pacers. Al Horford said there has been no locker room talk of the accomplishments.
5. Once again, Korver captured the attention of the fans and media with another dunk – the first time in his career he has done so in back-to-back games. He was looking to downplay the dunk after the game, saying he would “go glass” with a simple layup next time. Korver joked he hoped not to see the dunk on SportsCenter again, claiming it would be the two worst dunk highlights in history. The comment caused Millsap to burst into laughter two lockers down. Elton Brand, again, claimed he had no $100 bet with Korver on whether the guard would dunk before the center hit a 3-pointer. No payout.