The playoffs are within reach – for a ninth straight year.
The Hawks won a wire-to-wire victory over the Pistons, 112-95, Saturday night at the Palace at Auburn Hills. The win, coupled with the Bulls loss to the Magic, reduces the Hawks’ magic number for a postseason berth to two. The Hawks could clinch a spot in the postseason as early as Monday with a win at the Bulls. They remain third in the Eastern Conference over the Celtics, who played at the Suns late Saturday, and the idle Heat.
“I think we are playing our best basketball right now,” Kyle Korver said. “You look at a period of games, 10 games, 15 games, I think you can get a good grasp of where we are at as a team. The last 15 games has probably been our best stretch of the season. We have a lot of tough games coming up. We probably have the toughest schedule coming up of all teams that are in this mix with us. So we know that every game is really important. Guys are really focused.”
The Hawks (44-30) led by as many as 20 points en route to the victory. They have won three straight, eight of nine and 11 of 13 games.
Paul Millsap led the Hawks with 23 points, nine rebounds, five assists, four steals and four blocks. He left the game late in the four quarter with a cut over his left eye that required 10 stitches, after getting hit by the Pistons’ Aron Baynes.
“He’s a heck of a player and we are very fortunate to have him,” Hawks coach Mike Budenhozler said of Millsap, who left after playing 29 minutes. “We actually want more. We are on him. We think he can do even more for us. When he plays with energy and great force, his impact on the game is huge. And he knows that.”
Kent Bazemore finished with 17 points, Al Horford had 13 and Jeff Teague and Kyle Korver had 12 each to pace eight double-digit scorers. Teague also had a double-double with 12 assists.
The Hawks held a 19-point edge when the Pistons used a run to get within seven points at 83-76. The Hawks answered with a 20-6 run to put the game away with a 20-point advantage 103-83. The Hawks have scored over 100 points in a season-high eight games.
The Pistons (39-35) had a five-game win streak snapped, a run that began after the Hawks won in Detroit 10 days earlier. Tobias Harris led the Pistons with 21 points.
It was the second win in as many nights for the Hawks, who defeated the Bucks at home Friday.
“We came out with a ton of energy, which is good this time of year because no matter what’s going on it’s important to keep your eye on your prize and what you’re trying to get accomplished,” Bazemore said. “We’ve got a tight race coming down the stretch and it’s important we win these tight games. We have a tough schedule. We have to come out every night ready to play. It’s a great win for us. Road win. Back-to-back. Got in late. We had everything going against us and they won five in a row. It just shows how focused we are.”