Another top Western Conference team, another Hawks win

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During their now 18-game winning streak the Atlanta Hawks have beaten the Clippers, Grizzlies, Bulls, Thunder and now the Trail Blazers twice. That’s twice because Atlanta won a tightly contested game 105-99 over Portland on Friday night at home. It was a classic Hawks win where defense and balanced scoring won the day.

Portland came out hot, shooting 71 percent overall for the first quarter, and while they cooled down some they still shot 53 percent from three in the first half. Yet the Blazers turned it over 13 times in the half so come break they were up only 1, 51-50. Portland played better defense in the third quarter but their stars went cold from three, so the Portland lead grew but just to five points after three quarters.

In the fourth the Hawks got hot, opening the quarter on a 12-2 run to take the lead. The Hawks did it with balance — Mike Scott had eight points in the fourth, for example. Six Hawks scored in double figures led by Paul Millsap with 21, and Atlanta got fantastic play out of Kent Bazemore, who had to step in when Thabo Sefolosha left in the first quarter with a calf injury.

Where the Hawks had balance, the Blazers had stars. LaMarcus Aldridge had 37 and was Portland’s best player. Some of us expected an angry Damian Lillard — steaming about being left off the All-Star team — to come out hot but instead he struggled to deal with the Hawks aggressive doubling of him. Thing is nobody else made the Hawks pay. The guard trio of Portland of Lillard, Wes Matthews and Nicolas Batum combined to shoot 9-of-42 on the night, including missed good-look threes down the stretch.

Chalk another one up for the Hawks. The streak is likely to reach 20 before some real tests next week in Golden State and Memphis.