Franchise records are nothing to scoff at, and the Atlanta Hawks matched one on Wednesday evening. The Hawks took on an undermanned Indiana Pacers team and, for the most part, they executed on a phenomenal level, dominating throughout to the point where the visitors never once held the lead. When the clock went to triple-zeroes, the Hawks had won 14 consecutive games, and this particular contest was decided by a final score of 110-91.
Early on, the Hawks were executing on both ends, but they couldn't seem to build a lead and sustain it for a long period of time. Atlanta raced to two separate 7-0 runs in the first quarter, leading by as many as ten points, but Indiana stayed within striking distance despite never taking the lead during the 12-minute period. It was a balanced period with six plays scoring 3 or more points (led by Thabo Sefolosha with 6), but the visitors remained within four points at 25-21.
Much like the first quarter, the Hawks put together another strong run to begin the second quarter, but this one was different. Atlanta outscored Indiana by a 14-2 margin in the early going, and in the midst of that onslaught, Kyle Korver (yes, Kyle Korver) threw down a fast-break dunk. Naturally, this sent the entire arena (and particularly press row) into a frenzy never before seen, and when that was followed by an Al Horford bucket, the home team led by 14 points.
The Pacers would rally at times as the second quarter continued, but Atlanta led by as many as 15 points before settling on a 10-point margin at the half. It wasn't a flawless half from the Hawks, but balance was certainly at the forefront. All 10 players that appeared scored before the break, and the team was led by Al Horford and Thabo Sefolosha with only eight points each. Of course, holding the opposition to just 41% from the field and 33% from three helps, but grabbing a double-digit halftime lead without a standout individual performance is always encouraging.
Sometimes, the halftime break is a detriment to a team that is playing well. This was not one of those times.
Atlanta scored a staggering 36 points in the third quarter, including a 26-10 run out of the gate that lengthened the lead to 27 points in a hurry. Both DeMarre Carroll and Jeff Teague scored 10 points in the first seven minutes of the period, and when all was said and done, the Hawks were shooting 54% from the field overall and 12-for-24 from three-point range through three quarters. The lead was 88-64, the starters were chilling on the bench just steps from Mike Budenholzer, and that was virtually that.
Indiana started the fourth quarter in strong fashion, slashing the lead to 17 points and forcing Budenholzer to go back to Al Horford, Jeff Teague and Kyle Korver in short order. Still, that enormous cushion was enough to provide Atlanta with nothing approaching a "danger zone", and even when the Pacers (somehow) climbed within 13, the panic levels were not quite as high as they could have easily been.
Atlanta reestablished control with a Kyle Korver three that gave the Hawks a 93-76 lead with less than seven minutes to go, and that was effectively the end of the downswing. Aside from the unfortunate side effect of less playing time for the likes of Mike Muscala and John Jenkins (who both appeared in the final three minutes), all was right with the world on the way to a 110-91 victory.
On a night where no singular player was dominant, the offensive balance was jarringly impressive. Six members of the Hawks scored in double-figures, led by DeMarre Carroll and Jeff Teague with 17 points each, and as a team, the Hawks shot 50% from the floor and 45% from beyond the arc. Defensively, it was equally as stirring, holding the Pacers to 40% shooting from the field and 20% from long range in their own right, and with those type of numbers, it would be difficult for anyone to topple the Atlanta Hawks in their own building.
With the franchise-tying 14th consecutive win under their belts, the Atlanta Hawks will be looking to make a little bit of history on Friday night. Philips Arena will host the Oklahoma City Thunder, and while that game looks quite a bit closer on paper than Wednesday's contest did, the Hawks are playing at a level where virtually anything seems possible. Stay tuned.