The Atlanta Hawks are rounding back into form and they’ll take that momentum to South Beach Saturday night in a Southeast Division clash with the Miami Heat.
The Hawks, who own a nine-game lead over the Toronto Raptors for Eastern Conference supremacy, have won three in a row, which is tied for the best current winning streak in the conference.
Atlanta prevailed over the Milwaukee Bucks, Dallas Mavericks and Orlando Magic during this run. After Saturday’s tilt at American Airlines Arena, the Hawks return home to host the Houston Rockets and Cleveland Cavaliers.
On Friday, Atlanta won a seesaw matchup with the Magic, 95-88.
Jeff Teague scored all 17 of his points in the second half and added seven assists to lead the Hawks. Paul Millsap totaled 20 points and Al Horford chipped in 17 points with 13 rebounds for Atlanta.
“Their pick-and-roll defense gave us a lot of trouble,” Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer said of the Magic. “They really came after it defensively.”
Atlanta was up as many as 10 in the fourth before the Magic closed within 89-86 on Vucevic’s jumper with 1 1/2 minutes left. Orlando then caught a break when Millsap lost the ball in the lane was called for an offensive foul for plowing into Victor Oladipo.
Nikola Vucevic, though, missed a short bank shot at the other end, and Teague drained a floater in the lane with 44.4 seconds left.
Following an air ball 3-pointer from Channing Frye, Horford cemented the win when he slammed home Teague’s miss with 19.4 seconds remaining.
The Heat had a two-game winning streak end on Friday with a 104-102 loss in the Big Easy to the New Orleans Pelicans.
Luol Deng and Goran Dragic went for 22 and 20 points, respectively, in the loss. Dwyane Wade totaled 11 points on 4-of-16 shooting to go along with eight assists.
“We gotta move on tomorrow and show some grit to win against the best team the East,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.
New Orleans’ Eric Gordon nailed a 3-pointer with 2:23 left to tie it up once more.
The Pelicans forced a shot clock violation with 36 seconds left, then Gordon found Alexis Ajinca inside for a layup to give the hosts a 104-102 lead. Omer Asik came up with a block of Hassan Whiteside on the ensuing Heat possession, but he threw it away to give the Heat another chance.
Wade went for the win from 3-point range, but his attempt hit back iron and the Pelicans held on.
Miami will also host the Phoenix Suns and Los Angeles Lakers on this stay.
The Hawks have won both encounters this season and four in a row in the series. Atlanta’s win in Miami on Dec. 3 snapped a five-game road losing streak versus the Heat.
Struggling San Antonio was in Sacramento on Friday. Phoenix has followed a five-game losing streak with back-to-back wins.
The Suns beat Oklahoma City on Thursday, 117-113 in overtime despite another triple-double from Russell Westbrook. He missed the game-tying layup with 5.7 seconds left in OT. Eric Bledsoe was just as good as Westbrook with 28 points, 13 rebounds and nine assists. It was great theater seeing those two duel.
Markieff Morris scored 29 for the Suns, who pulled within 1.5 games of the Thunder for the eighth and final playoff spot in the West
. The Suns and Spurs have split two meetings. Phoenix won at home on Halloween, and the Spurs won at home 100-95 on Jan. 9 in the most recent meeting.