Hawks show out, bring Highlight Factory back to rout Wizards

Pero Antic is all smiles, which is still pretty scary. (Scott Cunningham/NBAE/Getty Images)
Pero Antic is all smiles, which is still pretty scary. (Scott Cunningham/NBAE/Getty Images)

The Atlanta Hawks are feeling themselves right now, and really, can you blame them? They've been playing absolutely brilliant basketball for the past six weeks, riding a balanced approach to playmaking, scoring and defense to wins in 22 of their last 24 games, vaulting them to the top of the Eastern Conference.

On Friday night, they went on the road and took out a red-hot Detroit Pistons club that had won seven straight games. On Sunday, they hosted the Washington Wizards, who entered at 25-11, tied with the Toronto Raptors for the second-best mark in the East, winners of three straight led by All-Star point guard John Wall ... and absolutely mopped the floor with them, blitzing the NBA's fifth-stingiest defense with three 30-plus-point quarters en route to a 120-89 blowout that improved gave Mike Budenholzer's club its eighth straight win, improving their conference-best record to 29-8.

It wasn't just that the Hawks hammered the Wiz, though, turning on the jets after Washington drew within two points midway through the third quarter with a blitzing 16-2 run to regain control before blowing the game wide open in the fourth. It was the way they did it. Last week, I lauded Atlanta's "just get the job done" approach; on Sunday, the Hawks showed they can rack up some style points in the process of taking care of business, too.

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Check out the way sophomore point guard Dennis Schröder — whose strong play over the last 25 games (8.4 points, 3.3 assists, 2.2 rebounds and just under one steal in 18.1 minutes per contest) has earned him backup duties behind surging starter Jeff Teague — styles and profiles (no Nature Boy) after putting up this late-in-the-shot-clock 3-pointer with just over one minute left in the fourth quarter:

Once more, with feeling, on a continuous loop:

Sure, that's an awful bold move for someone who's only made 23.3 percent of his 3-balls during his brief NBA career, but it's the kind of thing you can get away with when you're holding a huge lead and riding a tidal-wave winning streak. (Making the shot helps, of course. Just ask Swaggy P.)

Schröder was far from the only Hawk to show out in front of the Philips Arena faithful on Sunday, though. Reserve forward Mike Scott put a little extra sizzle on a second-quarter Atlanta fast break with this save and one-touch pass to big man Al Horford for the flush:

After much deliberation, I've decided that the appropriate emojis for Scott's work here are: 👍 🏀 🚚. (Horford would do his best to return the favor later, swatting a Paul Pierce layup to kickstart a fourth-quarter runout that would lead to Scott throwing down a right-hand tomahawk dunk. It's nice to share.)

Even Kyle Korver — known much more for his metronomically consistent shooting motion, long-range marksmanship and peerless fundamental work — got into the act, throwing a little bit of razzle-dazzle into the proceedings with a behind-the-back dish to set up DeMarre Carroll for a slam:

Slick as the dish was, however, Korver apparently had a different kind of highlight in mind.

“Well, I was thinking about trying to dunk it,” he said after the game, according to Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “Then I saw John Wall and I’ve seen too many highlights of him getting blocks from behind. This is just one of those things where I was up in the air, it wasn’t for very long, but it was long enough to know I wasn’t going to get the dunk. I saw DeMarre and flipped it around my back. I hope it looked good.”

It did, and it was effective, too. It's been a little while since Atlanta's style of play really fit its home gym's ancestral nickname, but with plays like these leading to a 31-point blowout of a darn-good division rival that keeps the Hawks' hellacious stretch running unimpeded, it sure seems safe to say that the Highlight Factory is rocking and rolling once again.

Even within the eye-catching highlights, though, Atlanta stayed true to its many-hands-make-light-work style. Eight Hawks scored in double figures, led by Korver's 19 points on 6-for-8 shooting (including 5-for-7 from deep, improving his league-best 3-point mark to 52.4 percent). The Hawks notched 34 assists on 42 made field goals, scored 31 points on the 20 Wizards turnovers they forced, and nearly doubled Washington up in fast-break points (21-11) to improve to 16-3 at home, and the offensive explosion nudged Atlanta up to sixth in offensive efficiency, just below the Phoenix Suns, which puts them in hailing distance of joining the West-leading Golden State Warriors as just the second team in the league to rank in the top five in both points scored and allowed per possession.

“We were clicking [Sunday]," Korver said after the game. "At this point, I don’t think we’ve played a better game. We just had that one stretch in the second quarter. Otherwise, that’s as good as we’ve played this year."

And as good as they've looked in the process, too.

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Dan Devine is an editor for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at devine@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter!

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