All for one and one for all

Hawks win­ning like never be­fore, with­out a sin­gle su­per­star

SundayXtra - - BASKETBALL - By Paul New­berry

AT­LANTA — The Hawks know it can be done. A sea­son ago, they watched the San An­to­nio Spurs blow out LeBron James’ Mi­ami Heat for the NBA ti­tle with­out any­one car­ry­ing the bulk of the load.

Still, this is rather rare ter­ri­tory in a star-driven league, a team push­ing it­self into the cham­pi­onship mix with­out one or two play­ers stand­ing above the oth­ers.

At­lanta, which has set a fran­chise record with 15 straight wins and leads the East with a stun­ning 36-8 record, is a team in ev­ery sense of the word. The start­ing lineup is about as bal­anced as it can be, with five play­ers av­er­ag­ing be­tween 17.2 and 11.7 points per game. The bench runs five or six play­ers deep on any given night, all of them ca­pa­ble of mak­ing a valu­able con­tri­bu­tion.

“Ev­ery night, somebody dif­fer­ent can step up,” coach Mike Bu­den­holzer said.

Not that the Hawks don’t have some tal­ented play­ers. Paul Mill­sap and Al Hor­ford have been to the All- Star Game. Jeff Teague, the team’s point guard and top scorer, will almost cer­tainly make the all-star team for the first time when the East re­serves are an­nounced. Sharp-shoot­ing Kyle Korver and de­fen­sive stop­per DeMarre Car­roll have blos­somed in start­ing roles since com­ing to At­lanta.

“Give me four or five re­ally good play­ers com­pared to just one su­per­star,” Mill­sap said. “I’ll take that any day.”

The deep roster has cre­ated a ca­ma­raderie that might be un­matched on any team. Those who aren’t in the game can usu­ally be found hoot­ing and hol­ler­ing on the side­line, cheer­ing on their team­mates, ev­ery­one fully in­vested.

“It’s kind of like a col­lege team,” Car­roll said. “Ev­ery­thing we do, we do as a group. We know we’ve got each other’s backs.”

Over the last 30 years, only five teams have gone on to win the NBA ti­tle with­out at least one player av­er­ag­ing at least 20 points a game, ac­cord­ing to STATS. The most re­cent was last year’s Spurs, who were paced by Tony Parker at 16.7 points a game.

“We watched how the Spurs did it in the fi­nals,” Korver said. “We’re not the Spurs, but we do a lot of sim­i­lar things. And they won the fi­nals pretty con­vinc­ingly.”

No other cham­pion in that span has had a top scorer with a scor­ing av­er­age lower than 17.6, slightly above Teague’s av­er­age.

“There are def­i­nitely times dur­ing a game when you need some­one to step up and make a play,” Korver said. “What we’re try­ing to do is make it pos­si­ble for a lot of peo­ple to be that guy. There’s a lot of talk about us not hav­ing a su­per­star, but I feel like we’ve got a lot of good play­ers.”

Just look at the bal­ance dur­ing their 15-game win­ning streak:

All five starters have led the team in scor­ing at least twice. Backup Mike Scott did it once, too.

No one has scored more than 27 points in a game, and three times the Hawks’ top scorer didn’t even have 20.

In five of those 15 games, all five starters were in dou­ble fig­ures.

In one game, a stag­ger­ing eight play­ers scored at least 10 points; only once has fewer than four play­ers failed to reach dou­ble fig­ures.

For the sea­son, 13 of the 15 play­ers have at least one dou­ble-fig­ure game (the only ex­cep­tions: rookie Adrien Payne, who has spent a good part of the year in the D-League, and lit­tleused but valu­able locker-room pres­ence El­ton Brand).

Eight play­ers have led the team in scor­ing, led by Mill­sap and Teague with 15 games apiece. Korver and Hor­ford have each done it seven times, with Car­roll pac­ing the score­sheet in five games.

CUR­TIS COMP­TON / AT­LANTA JOUR­NAL- CON­STI­TU­TION / THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

At­lanta Hawks Paul Mill­sap, DeMarre Car­roll, Kyle Korver and Al Hor­ford (from left) cel­e­brate after set­ting a fran­chise record of 15 straight wins by de­feat­ing Ok­la­homa.

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