Written by Tim Cato at SBNation.com
Feb. 6, 2015, the Golden State Warriors played the Atlanta Hawks. It was the most eagerly anticipated game of last season after the two teams had unexpectedly paired up to dominate their respective conferences. The Hawks won that early February game, 124-116, shooting 49 percent with 15 three-pointers while Jeff Teague led the way with 23 points.
Somehow that game, played just over a year ago, feels more like a decade.
On Monday, the two teams clashed again. The Warriors are champions now, threatening to win the most games in any NBA season ever, somehow even better than before. On the other side is Atlanta, just 31-27, which has them sitting as just the sixth-best team in the conference. They tried to trade Teague, gone from leading scorer to expendable, and Al Horford at the deadline this year. Even more damning is the fact that they couldn’t pull off a deal, deciding instead to wallow in the middle of the pack. The circumstances could hardly have changed more drastically.
Given all that, it’s no surprise the Warriors won, 102-92. Stephen Curry pulled his usual magic tricks, dropping 36 points and eight assists on a night where it didn’t even feel like he had his best stuff. Golden State is 50-5 now, which is a record that deserves to be spelled out. Yes, FIFTY and FIVE.
But for one long stretch in the third quarter, it wasn’t about Golden State, which is rather surprising. Third quarters are the Warriors’ thing. That’s when they turn tenderized teams into minced meat. Up 63-41 two minutes into the frame, it looked like that was on the verge of happening yet again.
It didn’t. Something happened in Atlanta that directly resembled the team that took the Eastern Conference by storm last year. Down 22 points, the Hawks scored 36 in the third quarter, holding the Warriors to six points in the period’s final seven minutes and pulling within one by the time the buzzer sounded. In the fourth quarter, Atlanta surged ahead, briefly taking a four-point lead. The Warriors came back, nailing a few too many shots, because this is what they always do. But for one nostalgic moment, all we could think about was that hyped meeting of last year.
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