Zack Peñalva, Sports Editor
The old adage says that defense wins championships, and if Atlanta hopes to be serious contenders this postseason, their defense is going to be the key. Currently ranked number one in the league in terms of points allowed, the Hawks 13-game (as of this writing) win streak stretches back to Dec. 26. During this streak, they’ve picked up wins against the Clippers (second in the Pacific division), the Grizzlies (first in the Southwest), and the Raptors (first in the Atlantic).
Al Horford started his 39th game of the season on Monday night against Detroit and continued to be an influential figure for the Hawks. He leads the team in blocks and his presence is a large reason that Atlanta has been able to keep teams under 100 points-per-game this season. The 6’10” center put up 14 points against the Pistons, one shy of his season average, and added seven assists.
Atlanta point guard Jeff Teague is on track for the best season of his career. And even when he’s not as his best, he only scored 10 points against Detroit; players like Horford or Paul Milsap (17 ppg) have stepped in to ensure that the team’s defense doesn’t go to waste.
After a slow start against Detroit, Atlanta looked like they may lose their resolve. “We kept shooting it, kept sharing it, and eventually the shots went down,” Milsaps said after the game. And as for the critics that say that the Hawk’s defense-focused, spread-the-ball-around style won’t be sustainable into the postseason, Milsaps disagrees. “ This is what basketball’s all about,” he said about their Monday night performance.
Over in the Pacific division, the Golden State Warriors have adopted a different approach. With Steph Curry at the wheel, the Warriors are 33-6 (at the time of this writing) and would be riding 11-game win streak were it not for a slip up away at Oklahoma City. And as dangerous as a strategy as “score a lot and hope the other team can’t keep up” is, it’s been ridiculously effective. The defense hasn’t been abysmal, it sits at 14th overall with 99 points allowed per game, but it’s clear that the main focus for the Warriors is to get the ball up the court and into Curry’s hands so he can make something happen.
If the regular season ended today, the two teams would look set for a meeting in the championship. But the question remains of whether either team has the balance to keep the pace and not get figured out by their opponents along the way.