This looked like it would be the night.
First, Portland’s Damian Lillard was left off of a stacked Western Conference All-Star team. Later, it was announced that DeMarre Carroll would not play due to an Achilles strain. Finally — when the game started — Carroll’s replacement, Thabo Sefolosha, came up limping after a blown layup and was later diagnosed with a calf strain. He did not return.
it seemed as if Portland was not going to miss early after they started 7-for-8 from 3-point range. After Atlanta had put together a mini-rally to close the first half, Portland responded with Steve Blake banking in a corner 3-pointer at the buzzer. That bank seemed like it would be it; this was going to finally be the end of the Hawks’ win streak.
But when the dust settled after 48 minutes, the Hawks ended the day with a 105-99 win and the best record in the NBA.
Paul Millsap scored 21 points and Al Horford pitched in with 17 as the Hawks were able to overcome 37 points from LaMarcus Aldridge. The win represented the Hawks 18th win in a row, a streak that is tied for the ninth best in NBA history.
“We’re a resilient group,” said Horford on the adversity the Hawks faced in the game. “We just kept fighting, got stops when we needed to and really got into a good rhythm offensively.”
One of the main guys who kept fighting was Kent Bazemore, who played a career-high 40 minutes in the wake of the injuries to Carroll and Sefolosha. Bazemore recored 12 points on 5-for-6 shooting, five rebounds, three assists, two steals, and a block.
“Kent was everywhere tonight,” said head coach Mike Budenholzer. “He was on a lot of different people doing a lot of different things. He hit some timely baskets and just did a lot of things. He’s been growing and coming in the right direction along with the whole group. I’m happy for him. He’s such a hard worker.”
Bazemore was not the only player to step up, as the lack of depth on the wing allowed some opportunities for the bench to play a bigger role. Mike Scott was a big spark plug for the Hawks in the fourth quarter, where he hit a 3-pointer and made a dunk in transition that really brought the crowd to life.
“We just fed off the crowds energy,” said Scott. “They were great again tonight. They just kept pushing us and we came out with the win.” Scott finished with 11 points on 4-for-5 shooting on the night.
Lillard, fresh off of the All Star snub, was 6-for-20 from the field in the game with only 13 points. He also had six turnovers. Credit to Jeff Teague and the Hawks’ defense for forcing the ball out of Lillard’s hands on a lot of possessions.
Dennis Schröder got a lot of playing time, tallying 24 minutes on the night, much of which came in the fourth quarter. He had a tough time finishing at the rim on some plays, but he was still effective on offense, earning seven assists for his efforts.
The Hawks turn around quickly and will face the Philadephia 76ers in Philips Arena on Saturday night. Expect some players to be rested, as Coach Bud let Elton Brand know that he will likely be playing tomorrow. Kyle Korver and Jeff Teague may see some lighter minutes, but expect them to play at least some because of the injuries to Carroll, Sefolosha, and Shelvin Mack.