The Hawks looked to win their 14th game in a row Wednesday night as the Pacers came to town. Indiana has put Atlanta out of the playoffs each of the last two years, but this Pacers team is a much different animal without Paul George and Lance Stephenson patrolling the perimeter on defense. Atlanta took full advantage from the tip to the final whistle, quickly opening up an eight-point lead early in the first quarter and not relenting until it was time for John Jenkins and Mike Muscala to make their way into the game late in the fourth.
DeMarre Carroll and Jeff Teague led the way for Atlanta with 17 points apiece and six of the Hawks were in double figures, including an impressive 4-for-7 shooting performance from Pero Antic. The Hawks took an 11-point lead into the half, but came out on fire in the third quarter, scoring 36 points and ending all hope the Pacers had to stop Atlanta’s win streak. Carroll and Teague combined for 20 points on 8-for-10 shooting in the period, including 3-for-3 from beyond the arc, as the Hawks’ lead ballooned to 27.
For the game, Atlanta shot 50% from the field and 44.8% from 3, but it was the passing that caught Coach Budenholzer’s eye after the game; the Hawks had 30 assists on 39 made baskets. Atlanta has had six games with 30 or more assists in the last ten days, two more than the rest of the NBA combined over that stretch. As the Hawks get more and more acclimated to one another, the passing has become the trademark of their fantastic start to the season.
With their 35th win of the season, the Hawks have guaranteed that Budenholzer and his staff will be coaching the East at All-Star Weekend in New York next month. After the game, Budenholzer made sure to spread the love around: “It’s a credit to our players, our front office, and our entire organization. I really feel strongly about our assistant coaches; I think they do an amazing job. It’s a great honor, but it’s our players that put us in this position.”
Undoubtedly, the highlights of the night were the pair of dunks from people who we rarely see fly above the rim: Kyle Korver and Pero Antic. Korver’s dunk in transition drew the biggest cheer of the night from the crowd; it was his first dunk since November 2012, when he had just joined the Hawks from Chicago.
Antic’s drive and dunk also brought the people to their feet. Antic has never driven to the basket and dunked in a half-court set in his NBA career and he attributed it to the Dominique Wilkins highlight footage played in the arena earlier in the game: “After the Dominique Wilkins video, I had to dunk!” When asked about Korver’s dunk earlier in the game, Antic drew another laugh from the media scrum, saying, “There’s something wrong today.” Antic added 3 three-pointers and his usual strong rim protection to what was one of the best games of his young career.
Atlanta welcomes Oklahoma City to Philips Arena on Friday to try for fifteen in a row for the first time in Hawks history, but the Thunder will pose one of the most formidable foes on a streak that has included away wins over Portland and the Clippers.