Thunder-Hawks Preview

Atlanta coach Mike Budenholzer isn’t interested in what’s happened with Hawks teams of the past.

All he’s concerned about is the 2014-15 version, which is on the verge of accomplishing something no other has done in the club’s existence.

The Hawks can set a franchise record with a 15th consecutive victory Friday night as they host an Oklahoma City Thunder team that’s found its groove.

Atlanta (35-8) has the most wins in the NBA and is three away from matching its total of last season, which was Budenholzer’s first. He’ll be the first Hawks coach to guide the Eastern Conference in the All-Star game since Lenny Wilkens, who did so during the 1993-94 season when he led Atlanta to a team record-tying 57 victories – including the club’s only other 14-game winning streak – and the top record in the East.

"I’m not a historian. I know they’ve had a lot of great teams here, a lot of great players," Budenholzer said after Atlanta’s 110-91 win over Indiana on Wednesday. "Coaches, we tend to look more forward and be in the moment. This group has continued to play with a little bit of an edge. If we can continue to work each day, that’s what we’re mostly concerned about."

Atlanta improved to 30-1 when leading by at least 10 points, which it has done in every game during the winning streak. It led Wednesday from start to finish, something it has done six times after accomplishing the feat four times over the previous two seasons combined.

Perhaps most impressive is that the Hawks have risen to the top of the East with a cast that doesn’t include a true star. DeMarre Carroll, hoping to play two full seasons for the same club for the first time in his six-year career, scored 17 points to tie for the team lead.

”They don’t call me the Junkyard Dog for nothing,” Carroll said. ”I don’t take anything for granted.”

Atlanta has won 13 of 14 at home and is 14-5 against teams that are above .500, a group that only recently added Oklahoma City (22-20).

The Thunder have won four straight after Russell Westbrook scored the last of his 32 points on a driving layup with 0.8 seconds left in overtime of Wednesday’s 105-103 victory at Washington.

Kevin Durant had 34 points and Steven Adams finished with a career-high 20 rebounds for Oklahoma City, which has won the first three on a five-game road trip that ends Sunday against Cleveland.

"It was maturity," Westbrook said. "It showed that we do a great job of locking in defensively and getting stops on demand. It’s important that we get stops on demand and we did that (Wednesday)."

The Thunder have surged since opening 3-12, a stretch during which Westbrook and Durant missed time with injuries.

"We’ve stayed positive and stayed poised," Durant said.

Atlanta is 10-2 against the West, but it will have a tough time improving on that mark if it can’t stop Durant, who has averaged 37.3 points in his last three against the Hawks. He scored 41 and hit a jumper with 1.5 seconds remaining to give the Thunder a 111-109 victory in the most recent meeting Jan. 27.

The Thunder have won four straight against Atlanta.