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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. Continue Reading…

The 2007 NBA Draft ranks among the most hyped ever. Greg Oden was projected to be the most dominant big man since Shaquille O’Neal. There was this skinny kid from Texas who was supposed to be good, Kevin Durant. And Florida had just won back-to-back NCAA championships with the son of former Milwaukee Buck Tito Horford. Somehow, against all odds, the Atlanta Hawks landed the draft pick that would propel the franchise to the cusp of championship contention.

The Hawks suffered through a 30-52 season in 2006-07 and finished with the league’s fourth-worst record. On March 22, 2007, the NBA Draft Lottery was held in Secaucus, New Jersey. Things were not looking good for the Hawks as the Trail Blazers, owners of the seventh-worst record, won the right to move into the top three. The Seattle SuperSonics (fifth-worst) likewise moved up. The Hawks owed a protected first round pick to the Phoenix Suns from the trade for Joe Johnson, so if the Hawks were pushed out of the top three, the team would surrender the pick.

But then, for once, the ping pong balls landed exactly right for the Hawks. After Portland won the right to pick first and Seattle second, the Hawks moved up to the third pick. It was a crushing blow for the Memphis Grizzlies, Boston Celtics and Bucks, owners of the league’s three worst records. With those teams moving past them, they dropped out of the top three of a draft with potential All-Stars available with the first three picks. Continue Reading…

Over at Truth About It, the TrueHoop blog for the Washington Wizards, Kyle Weidie and I preview tonight’s Hawks-Wizards match-up at Phillips Arena. We did this prior to the previous contest between these two teams, and in that piece I downplayed Shelvin Mack’s strong early season, referring to his “one good game” against the Knicks.

Welp, early indications are that Mr. Mack Attack is a Truth About It reader and didn’t like what I had to say, because he’s been shutting me up ever since. Including the previous loss to the Wizards, in which Mack scored 11 points and added six assists, Mack has been on the best 5-game stretch of his career, averaging 10.6 PPG and 4.8 APG on 22-for-42 (52%) shooting from the field and 4-for-11 (36%) shooting from 3-point distance in 22 MPG.

He’s an aggregate plus-27 over that stretch, and Weidie assured me at the start that Wizards fans would much rather have Mack as John Wall’s backup than Eric Maynor. If Mack can keep that production up, he will start to enter the conversation as one of the best backup point guards in the NBA.

Jeff Teague was badly outplayed by Wall in that previous match-up, scoring 15 with 5 assists on 5-for-18 shooting compared to 26-and-12 for Wall on 9-for-18 shooting. It appeared that Teague’s production had slipped since his hot start that led to speculation about his All-Star prospects.

But has Teague’s season really slipped? In the four games since the loss to the Wizards, Teague has matched up against Tony Parker, Chris Paul, Kyrie Irving and Russell Westbrook, who range from All-Star locks (Parker, Paul and Westbrook) to good candidates (Irving). During that stretch, Teague has averaged 13.75 PPG and 6.25 APG on 19-for-47 (40%) shooting from the field and 5-for-11 (45%) shooting from three. Over the same stretch, the opposing team’s starting point guard has averaged 12 PPG and 8.25 APG on 20-for-49 (41%) shooting from the field and 2-for-13 (15%) shooting from 3-point distance.

Admittedly, those numbers are skewed slightly by the 0-for-9 goose egg by Irving, who has been described as “sulking” since a confrontation with Dion Waiters in a players-only meeting. Nonetheless, that’s an impressive run for Teague that included games against multiple future Hall of Famers.

2012-13 Record: 60-22 (1st in West) z-thunder

Playoff Result: Lost in Second Round

Key Additions: Steven Adams (draft), Andre Roberson (draft)

Key Losses: Kevin Martin (free agency)

Projected 2013-14 Record: 57-25 (2nd in West)*

What to Expect: The Thunder have swiftly undergone a change in identity. At this point a year and a half ago, they were a dynasty in the making. Now? There are people who would be somewhat surprised if this team wins the NBA championship this year.

What’s changed revolves around Oklahoma City’s loss of James Harden and what they’ve gotten back for him. Kevin Martin filled a third-scorer role last year with precision shooting but is now in Minnesota. Jeremy Lamb could be primed for a breakout year, but for the most part the magnitude of his impending contributions are clouded. And finally, using the draft pick they picked up in the Harden trade, OKC selected Steven Adams with the 12th overall pick. Otherwise this team is just about the same as it’s previous few installments. Continue Reading…

RECAP: Hawks 104, Thunder 95

Bo Churney —  November 4, 2012 — 2 Comments

FINAL

OKC(1-2) 95   –  104 (1-1)ATL

Key Performers:

A. Horford (ATL): 23 pts, 12 rebs, 3 asts
K. Durant (OKC): 22 pts, 12 rebs, 8 asts, 3 stls
[FULL BOX SCORE]

Despite Josh Smith staying in Atlanta due to a sprained ankle, the Hawks were able to defeat the Oklahoma City Thunder thanks to the strong play of Al Horford, Lou Williams, and Jeff Teague. This is the Hawks’ second straight win over the Thunder.

Reaction Grades: [assessed 0-10]

Al Horford: This is why Horford needs to get more touches on offense. Al had 23 points on 11-19 shooting, and improved on his rebounding performance from the first game, grabbing 12 boards this time around. He also had three assists and no turnovers. 9/10

Lou Williams: For the second game in a row, Lou didn’t do much early, but took over in the fourth with 14 points in the final quarter. His shooting efficiency could use a boost, but he’s getting to the line, which is something Atlanta couldn’t accomplish at all last season. 7/10

Zaza Pachulia: Zaza had six assists, which is hilarious. He was a little sloppy at times, but kept on the glass and even had a nice fadeaway jumper when the shot clock was running down on him in the 2nd quarter. (well, it wasn’t pretty, but it went in) 7/10

Jeff Teague: He only played 26 minutes, but was practically flawless in those 26. He has 16 points on 7-12 shooting, five assists, and three steals. He also completely posterized Kevin Durant, which you’ll probably be able to catch on Top 10 plays if you missed it. 9/10 Continue Reading…