GAME PREVIEW (via STATS LLC)
The Atlanta Hawks cruised to a ninth straight win with three starters taking the night off in the first of a back-to-back set.
Atlanta matched its season-best winning streak with a 105-87 victory Tuesday in Philadelphia, earning it a franchise-best ninth consecutive road win.
The Hawks (30-8) last won 10 straight in a single season when they began the 1997-98 campaign with 11 straight victories., and they're leading the Eastern Conference this late in the season for the first time since earning the No. 1 seed in 1993-94.
Atlanta is an NBA-best 23-2 dating to Nov. 28, and Tuesday's win was the latest impressive defensive effort as it limited Philadelphia to 40.8 percent shooting. During the 25-game span, the Hawks have held opponents to a league-low 93.0 points per game and 42.3 percent.
Offensively, Atlanta continued its 3-point assault with a 12-for-23 effort to boost its percentage to 49.6 over the last five games. Kyle Korver was 4 of 7 from long range for 15 points.
"It kind of feels like a college team in a lot of ways," said Korver, who has made 12 of 17 from 3 in three games as well as 14 of 18 in his past three games against Boston. "In the NBA, the business side exists. It's on people's minds. But I feel like everyone here has really bought in."
Al Horford, the other starter to play, added an interior dimension with an 8-of-10 night, leading the way with 21 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists for his first career triple-double.
In addition to Teague, Millsap and Carroll, Pero Antic didn't play for the second time in three games as the team begins a stretch of four games in five nights that concludes against fellow division leaders Toronto and Chicago.
THREE THINGS TO WATCH (via Chris Forsberg)
• No bright lights: The Celtics were supposed to have their only honest-to-goodness national game on Wednesday (hence the later tip time), but the league audibled earlier this month. Now Boston will simply have to try to get up for a team with a four-game lead atop the Eastern Conference. The Hawks are playing so well lately they took a Spurs-like approach in resting key bodies on the front end of a back-to-back Tuesday in Philadelphia.
• Preventing the runs: Here's Celtics coach Brad Stevens on the Hawks: "They play basketball in a great manner on both ends of the court. Very, very, very tough-minded; they know exactly what they want to do defensively. They have all bought in, clearly. There is clearly 100 percent buy-in to what’s going on on both ends of the floor. And they move the ball as well as any team in the NBA. Where they kill you is, you play and play and play, and -- bang -- they hit you with a 12-0 run and the game’s over. That’s happened to us each of the last two games we’ve played them. At the end of last year, they went on a 9-0 run, tied the game [after] we were up; then this year they just went on a flurry while we were not playing well and they took advantage of us for about a quarter and it changed the game."
• Limiting Korver: Korver has feasted on Boston in recent matchups, including putting up 24 points on 8-of-9 shooting (six 3-pointers) during Atlanta's 109-105 triumph in early December (That was 20 wins ago, mind you, for the Hawks). Korver is going to hit shots, they just can't let him get hot like he has at times in previous meetings.