No doubt now.
In a battle of the NBA’s two top teams, the Hawks proved just where they stand in the league’s hierarchy.
Clearly at the top.
The Hawks own the best record in the league after a 124-116 win over the Warriors at a sold-out Philips Arena Friday night. If this was a preview of the NBA Finals, fasten your seatbelts. It’s going to be quite a ride.
The Hawks (42-9, 25-3 home) have won 35 of 38 games, including 12 straight at home, as their remarkable season hit another benchmark. The Hawks snapped a five-game losing streak to the Warriors, including three at home. They are 13-3 against the vaunted Western Conference.
Jeff Teague led seven double-digit scorers with 23 points, seven assists and three steals. All five Hawks starters scored in double-digits with Paul Millsap (21), Kyle Korver (17), Al Horford (12) and DeMarre Carroll (12) filling the stat sheet. Horford added 14 rebounds.
“We already know that we are a good time,” Teague said. “We believe in ourselves. We come out every night and believe we can win every game. This was just another game.”
It was the play off the bench of Mike Scott (17 points), Kent Bazemore (11) and Dennis Schroder (9) that lifted the Hawks.
The Warriors (39-9, 16-7 road) had a three-game win streak snapped and are 14-2 against the Eastern Conference. All-Stars Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry paced the Warriors with 29 and 26 points, respectively.
“We made them take tough shots,” Carroll said. “Klay Thompson is not an All-Star for nothing. They were all contested. Him and Steph, that’s what makes them special. They hit tough shots at tough moments.”
The Hawks had a strong third quarter to take control of the game. They had a 12-1 run early in the period to lead by nine points and pushed the lead to 10, 70-60, with 7:14 left. The Warriors stormed back as Curry and Thompson hit two 3-pointers each in a run of five field goals. They tied the score at 83 before Scott hit back 3-pointers and the Hawks took a 89-82 lead into the fourth quarter.
The Hawks outscored the Warriors 37-33 in the third quarter by making 12 of 17 shots, including all five 3-point attempts.
“We were more physical,” Carroll said of the second-half defense. “We were more aggressive. We were getting in the right spots at the right time. Everybody was helping each other. In the first half, we were leaving guys on islands.”
The Hawks are 36-1 this season when they hold a lead of at least 10 points at any point during a game.
The teams entered the intermission tied at 52, a fitting end to the first two quarters.
The Hawks shot 37 percent from the field in the first half but made 7 of 17 3-pointers. Korver and Bazemore had three each. Their biggest lead was five points. The Warriors shot 46 percent but made just 3 of 13 3-pointers. Curry was 3 of 9 from the field and 1 of 5 from beyond the arc. Their biggest lead was eight points.
“It feels good,” Korver said of the win. “That is a really good team. That’s a really dangerous team. They can get hot. They can get cold. They can get really hot all in the same game. They are really hard to prepare for. We knew we had to play a good 48-minute game to beat them.”
The Hawks travel to play the Grizzlies, the team with the second-best record in the Western Conference, on Sunday.
Hawks consider Allen
The Hawks have had discussions with representatives for free agent Ray Allen but nothing is imminent, according to a person familiar with the discussions.
Allen has not played since finishing last season with the Heat. He has reportedly received interest from several teams.
The Hawks may be reluctant to disrupt the chemistry of a team that holds the best record in the NBA. However, the team lost guard/forward Thabo Sefolosha for six to eight weeks with a right calf strain.
The 39-year-old Allen played 19 NBA seasons. He averaged 18.9 points and is a career 40 percent shooter from 3-point range. Allen is the NBA’s all-time leader in 3-pointers made with 2,973, 413 more than second-place Reggie Miller.