ATLANTA (AP) — After a far-from-perfect performance, the Atlanta Hawks head into February with the NBA’s best record and savoring a bit of NBA history as the first team to go 17-0 within a calendar month.
The Hawks stretched their overall winning streak to 19 straight with a gritty 91-85 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday night, blowing a 21-point lead and actually falling behind late in the game.
In the end, it was yet another triumph for a team that hasn’t lost since the day after Christmas.
“We are a resilient group,” All-Star center Al Horford said.
According to STATS, the Hawks (40-8) are the first team in NBA history to win 17 games without a loss over a single month. Four teams have put together a 16-0 mark, most recently the eventual NBA champion San Antonio Spurs last March.
Also, the 19-game streak is tied for the fifth-longest within a season. The Hawks will travel to New Orleans on Monday night looking to make it 20 in a row, which would match the 1970-71 Milwaukee Bucks. The only longer streaks in NBA history were by the 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers (33 in a row), the 2012-13 Miami Heat (27), and the 2007-08 Houston Rockets (22).
The Hawks are banged up as they move into a new month, but confident that their depth will help overcome injuries to Thabo Sefolosha, DeMarre Carroll and Shelvin Mack.
Sefolosha, who backed up Carroll at small forward, is expected to miss six to eight weeks with a right calf injury, costing the Hawks one of their top defensive players and a key member on the playing rotation. Carroll has missed the last two games with a left Achilles streak and it’s not known when he’ll return. Mack, a backup point guard, has missed six games with a left calf strain and could be out for at least another week.
“We’re confident in one to 15 here,” Horford said. “Guys really put in the time. Guys work every day. They just don’t get the opportunity because were so deep. We have guys who can play. It’s just the way it is with this team.”
Kent Bazemore, a 6-foot-5 swingman, moved up to take Carroll’s spot in the lineup. Third-year guard John Jenkins, who has spent much of the year in the D-League, played nearly 21 minutes and scored 9 points on 4-of-5 shooting against the 76ers in only his sixth NBA game of the season. Veteran Elton Brand played an expanded role the last two games, grabbing five rebounds in about 11 minutes Saturday. Second-year forward Mike Muscala and rookie Adreian Payne, the team’s first-round pick, could get more playing time if the injuries linger.
With Carroll hurting and Sefolosha out, Bazemore will definitely get more playing time.
“We’re very, very fortunate to have three guys on the wing that really take a lot of pride in defending,” coach Mike Budenholzer said. “Kent was everywhere (against Philadelphia). He was on a lot of different people, doing a lot of different 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.”
After the Pelicans (25-22), the Hawks return home to face Washington (31-17) on Wednesday night before a much-anticipated game against West-leading Golden State (37-8) on Friday. The Warriors held the top record in the NBA for much of the season, but were passed by the streaking Hawks in the past week.
Portland star Damian Lillard is certainly impressed by what he’s seen from the Hawks, who swept the season series against the Trail Blazers.
“They take advantage of teams’ mistakes,” he said. “They are constantly in the passing lane, and they keep their hands active, creating more positions for themselves and taking other possessions away from the other team. They execute offensively and they play together. There’s a reason why” the Hawks have won 19 in a row.
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