Hawks beat Warriors in battle of league’s top teams

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The Hawks have been one of the more incredible stories this season, at one point piecing together a 19-game win streak while playing an equal opportunity brand of offensive basketball that’s been extremely fun to watch.

Despite their gaudy record, however, most considered the Warriors to be the league’s best team. That argument was temporarily settled on Friday, as Atlanta posted a 124-116 home victory over Golden State, and did so rather impressively.

The Warriors lead the league in defensive efficiency by holding opponents to an average of just 97.3 points per 100 possessions, and while the pace in this one was faster than usual, you wouldn’t have guessed that Golden State excelled at that end of the floor, especially in the second half.

The Hawks shot 67.7 percent from the field and 80 percent from three-point distance over the final two periods, on the way to scoring 72 second-half points.

Atlanta may have three of its players heading to New York for the All-Star game next weekend, but as usual, the scoring was distributed fairly evenly in this one. Jeff Teague led the way with 23 points (on just 5-of-15 shooting), but six of his teammates also finished in double figures. Mike Scott was huge off the bench, scoring 15 of his 17 points in a little more than 10 second-half minutes.

On the Warriors side, Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson did the heavy lifting, combining for 57 points on almost 50 percent shooting. But the rest of the team shot the ball at a low percentage, and — when do we ever say this — simply couldn’t keep up with the efficient way that the Hawks were making their shots.

Golden State fans may point to this game as an anomaly; the blistering second-half shooting display their opponent pulled off isn’t likely sustainable, and the free throw disparity was significant, despite the Warriors taking more than 45 percent of their shots in the paint.

But the Hawks are for real, and they’ve proven it now, just as they have all season long. If they didn’t win under this specific set of circumstances, they probably would have found another way — a league best record of 42-9 essentially proves it.