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Win over Jazz lifts Hawks to top spot in Eastern Conference

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Atlanta's 98-92 win over the Utah Jazz on Friday lifted them into first place in the Eastern Conference standings.

Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

The Atlanta Hawks began their road trip on a good note by outlasting the Utah Jazz 98-92 Friday night. That win, along with a loss by the Toronto Raptors to the Golden State Warrios, has the Hawks currently in first place in the Eastern Conference.

Its been a rather remarkable run for Atlanta who has gone 18-2 over their last 20 games. While we talk a lot about Atlanta's offense, this streak of good play is largely due to their defensive effort. Atlanta is sixth in the league in defensive efficiency allowing 100.6 points per 100 possessions. They flexed their defensive muscles again on Friday holding the Jazz to just 37 percent shooting while forcing 14 turnovers.

Atlanta has another tough game on Saturday night against the Portland Trail Blazers who have won four straight, are 26-7 and are just a game back for the top spot in the Western Conference. For now though, Atlanta is at the top of the Eastern Conference mountain.

Jeff Teague's good run continues in win over Jazz

Jeff Teague has taken his game to another level this season for the Atlanta Hawks. Teague finished with 25 points, eight assists and three steals in Friday's win against Utah. During Atlanta's current three-game winning streak Teague is averaging 24.7 points and 8.7 assists while shooting 54.5 percent from the field.

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What can't be ignored is the improvements that Teague has made on the defensive end of the floor. After Friday night's performance, Teague has an individual defensive rating of 99.4 per NBA.com which is third on the team among players who have appeared in at least 20 games. That is an exceptional improvement for Teague whose defensive attention has always been one of the biggest knocks against him in his career.

Teague helped harass Utah point guard Trey Burke into a 2-19 shooting night on Friday. He's second on the team in steals and is leading by example on the defensive end of the floor.