The Atlanta Hawks notched their 15th consecutive victory on Friday night, knocking off the Oklahoma City Thunder by a score of 103-93. The 15 straight wins in the best stretch in franchise history.
“I’m happy for our guys to have success,” said Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer, who will be the head coach of the Eastern Conference All Stars thanks to Atlanta’s record. “It’s a carry-over from the work on the court and work in the film room before practice and after practice. Our guys deserve to have an opportunity to do something. We just have to keep doing it.”
The Hawks started off extremely sloppy, allowing Oklahoma City to build a nine point lead early in the first half. “We’ve had a lot of good stars and tonight probably wasn’t one of them,” said Budenholzer. The Hawks kept turning the ball over, allowing the Thunder to get out and transition and get easy looks at the hoop. The Hawks also had some defensive breakdowns in the halfcourt that led to some open 3s for OKC.
After 12 turnovers in the first half, the Hawks started to clean it up in the second half with strong efforts from Paul Millsap and Jeff Teague. Millsap scored 17 points in the half and was the main player closing in the fourth quarter, while Teague led the Hawks through the third quarter with nine points in the period.
“[We won] with team defense and running the plays on offense,” said Dennis Schröder, who scored 13 points in the game. “DeMarre did a great job on Kevin Durant. Overall, the team defense was very special tonight.”
The defense was led by Al Horford, whose activity was extremely disruptive on the OKC big men. Serge Ibaka was 6-for-16 from the field and was not able to get comfortable near the basket at all thanks to Horford’s activity. Horford also led the effort on the boards, grabbing 12 of the Hawks 47 rebounds. After getting destroyed on rebounds against the Pistons earlier in the week, the Hawks won the rebound battle against the Thunder — the best rebounding team in the NBA.
Kyle Korver was held very well in check by the Thunder defense, who limited him to just five shot attempts and forced four turnovers out of the former Creighton product. However, Korver had the final laugh by creating a new #KyleStreak: Korver had now successfully dunked in consecutive games.
I think this solves the bet that Korver had with Elton Brand over which would happen first: a Korver dunk or a Brand 3. Brand claimed that Korver’s first dunk against the Pacers did not count because he barely got it by the finger tips, but Brand cannot make the same claim with this dunk, which Korver throws down with both hands.
The Hawks have won 15 straight and are on top of the Eastern Conference standings, but they have the confidence they can still improve.
“The confidence level has always been high,” said Horford. “The more comfortable we get with each other, the better we’re starting to look out there. We’re a confident group.”
The Hawks will have the chance to extend the streak to 16 on Sunday when the Minnesota Timberwolves visit Philips Arena. Atlanta will then have a few days off before they host the Brooklyn Nets in a game that will be televised on ESPN.