We are running out of adjectives.
The Hawks insisted last week that their upcoming five-game schedule against top-level competition was not a big deal. It hasn’t been.
The Hawks are now 20-7 after holding off the Mavericks 105-102 Monday night. They have won 13 of their past 14 games. They were in control of this latest win, leading by as many as 24 points, until being outscored 39-23 in the fourth quarter. Well, it will give coach Mike Budenholzer some video to break down.
All five starters scored in double figures with Dennis Schroder leading the way with 22 points. He was followed by Kyle Korver (18), Al Horford (17), DeMarre Carroll (15) and Paul Millsap (13). Millsap also had 12 rebounds and seven assists, nearing a triple-double.
Here are my five observations from the game:
1. This is one amazing run for the Hawks. Get out your checklist and mark off one win after another as they entered a tough five-game stretch before Christmas. They have knocked off the Bulls, Cavaliers, Rockets and Mavericks – the last three on the road. It has been an impressive brand of basketball. The Clippers are up next Tuesday.
You can only say this team is for real so many times. They are.
The Hawks are second in the Eastern Conference and trail only the Raptors – by one game – for the top spot.
2. The Hawks stifled the NBA’s leading-scoring team for much of the game. The Mavericks entered with an average of 109.7 points per game. They trailed 82-63 going into the final quarter as they shot just 37 percent from the field through three periods. The late charge helped make the outcome not so one-sided. However, the Hawks never trailed after being down 6-4 three minutes into the game. Mavericks star Dirk Nowitzki finished with just 16 points on 6 of 13 shooting.
3. Dennis Schroder. Little else needs to be said. The second-year guard is making it easy for the Hawks to let Jeff Teague take his time coming back from a hamstring injury. Schroder scored a career-high 22 points, on 9 of 15 shooting, in his third straight start. He scored 10 first-quarter points as the Hawks grabbed an early lead they would not relinquish. Schroder came up huge in the fourth quarter as well. With the Mavericks making a late charge, he hit a jumper with 1:28 left to push the Hawks’ lead back to 10 points, 98-88. He added two free throws with 1:08 left.
Schroder has averaged 13.3 points and 7.3 assists in his three starts in place of Teague.
4. The Hawks quick started continued into the second quarter. They led by as many as 16 points in the period thanks to an 11-0 run in the final minutes. The Hawks took a 52-38 lead into intermission. The 38 points scored by the Mavericks were a season-low for a first half.
Watch the highlights of this play that was typical of the Hawks’ ball movement. Carroll fought for a loose ball rebound. He threw a three-quarter court pass to Schroder in the corner. He lobbed an alley-oop pass to Horford for an emphatic dunk.
Through the first two quarters, the Hawks shot 51 percent (23 of 45) as opposed to the Mavericks’ 33 percent (16 of 49).
5. All good things have to come to an end. Korver saw his franchise record for consecutive free throws snapped at 50. The streak snapper, coming on an attempt after a Mavericks fourth-quarter technical foul, was only his third miss of the season. He started a new streak and hit six straight in the final minutes.