The Atlanta Hawks are on the run. Most of the other NBA teams are finding it hard to keep up with the youngest team in the league.
The hot-shooting Hawks made 56 of 83 shots Wednesday night at Atlanta and ran over the Golden State Warriors, 131-100. It was their ninth win in the last 11 games.
Since the new year began, the Hawks have lost only to the Boston Celtics (twice). The Celtics have been beating everybody.
The Warriors, playing without Chris Mullin, who remained in New York because his brother, John, is in serious condition following an emergency appendectomy, made a battle of it for a half.
But Dominique Wilkins, the dominant force behind the Hawks, scored six points in an 11-1 spurt at the start of the third quarter that broke the game open. It was the seventh loss in a row for the Warriors on the road.
The Hawks, who have surged into contention in the Central Division after failing to qualify for the playoffs last season, are only 3 1/2 games out of first place. They are making their move on a combination of speed and size.
In his third season as coach, Mike Fratello, has finally completed transforming the Hawks from a slow, deliberate team into a fast-breaking unit. Although he has three seven-footers, Tree Rollins, Jon Koncak and Kevin Willis, the young Hawks (average age 24) run at every opportunity.
"When I took over, we were slow," Fratello said. "We had to control the tempo and play very conservatively. Now, we have the speed. We also have the enthusiasm of youth. Sometimes, it's difficult to coach a young team, but we're playing a style the players and fans both like."
In his fourth season, Wilkins has become the star everyone thought he would be.
He has taken charge in the last 11 games, averaging 31 points a game, shooting 52% from the field and getting 8 rebounds a game.
Although he sat out most of the last quarter, Wilkins scored 25 points in this one. Guard Glenn Rivers was 8 for 8 from the field and had 12 assists. The other guard, Randy Wittman, scored 23 points, making 10 of his 12 attempts from the field.
Wilkins does more than score and rebound. Much of the time in this game, he guarded Purvis Short, the Warriors' high-scoring forward. Short had only 15 points.
Philadelphia 118, Phoenix 111--The Suns had seven more field goals than the 76ers at Philadelphia, and even though the 76ers missed 17 free throws, the Suns lost. The bigger, stronger 76ers shot 55 free throws. From the line, the Suns were 18 of 23.
Charles Barkley had a big game for the 76ers, who have won 16 of their last 18. Barkley had 29 points and 14 rebounds. He also had 5 steals and 4 blocked shots.
Denver 137, New Jersey 124--Alex English warmed up after scoring only two points in the first quarter at Denver, scoring 43 points to enable the Nuggets to end a four-game losing streak.
English scored 14 points in the last quarter as the Nuggets broke open a close game.
The Nets overcame a 15-point deficit in the third quarter to take a 97-96 lead with 9:27 left. But English and Calvin Natt took charge, and it was over in a hurry.
Micheal Ray Richardson, who has been sidelined since Dec. 26 because of a drug problem, returned to action for the Nets. He scored 15 points, including a three-point basket at the final buzzer.
Detroit 107, Cleveland 104--Kelly Tripucka beat the Lakers Sunday with a three-point basket and he won this game at Richfield, Ohio, with a three-point play.
It was 102-102 with 40 seconds left when Tripucka drove the baseline, scored on a scoop shot, was fouled and converted.