The Atlanta Hawks keep finding new ways to extend the longest winning streak in franchise history. This time, Kent Bazemore was the surprise star off the bench.
Atlanta overcame 37 points by Portland's LaMarcus Aldridge to win its 18th straight game by overpowering the Trail Blazers in the final period for a 105-99 victory Friday night.
The big lead for each team was only six points. There were four ties in the fourth quarter before the Hawks took the lead for good midway through the period on a basket by Al Horford, who had 17 points.
"We got stops when we needed to and really got into a rhythm offensively," Horford said.
The Hawks overcame a sudden shortage of wing players to keep their streak alive before a sellout crowd.
Atlanta's DeMarre Carroll missed the game with a left Achilles strain. His replacement, Thabo Sefolosha, lasted only two minutes before leaving with a right calf strain.
The Hawks' depth came through again. Bazemore, the team's third option at small forward, didn't miss a beat. Bazemore made his first three shots and finished with 12 points, five rebounds, three assists, two steals and a block.
Bazemore, who usually plays about 12 minutes per game, logged almost 40 minutes.
"With Thabo going down and DeMarre already hurt," Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer said, "for Kent Bazemore to come in and play the way he did and play as many minutes as he did … it was just a team effort, everybody contributing."
Ricky Rubio is one game away from returning to the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Rubio has been cleared to play on Monday against the Dallas Mavericks, a person with knowledge of the situation told The Associated Press on Saturday. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because an announcement has not been made.
Rubio has been out since severely injuring his left ankle Nov. 7. He will have missed 43 games because of the injury, and the Wolves sunk to the bottom of the league without him.
QUOTES OF THE WEEK
"I'm just sick and tired of one night getting a certain effort and the next night you don't show up and you don't compete," Nuggets Coach Brian Shaw said after Denver was blown out by Memphis, 99-69, on Thursday. "I feel like I get thrown under the bus when we come out with performances like that. So any questions you have about in terms of our effort, where it was, why we played the way we did tonight, those are good questions to ask them [the players]. I'd like to know the answers too."
Brooklyn is sinking in the East and Nets Coach Lionel Hollins' job status is reportedly shaky. "You've gone through all the stories on who can't take the blame or who should be to blame. So it must be the coach, and that's part of this business," Hollins said. "Does it bother me when I read it? If I read it, it don't bother me."
When Miami All-Star guard Dwyane Wade held a news conference to announce that he might be sidelined for a couple of weeks because of a right hamstring injury, he smiled and offered the media some advice. "I won't be seeing y'all for a while, so take a good look at this face."
GAME OF THE WEEK
Golden State at Atlanta
When: Friday, 4:30 p.m. PST.
It's too bad this game is not being televised nationally because the Warriors and Hawks have been playing the best basketball in the NBA all season and they have the top two records in the league to prove it. The teams have different philosophies, though. The Warriors rely on Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, their All-Star guards, to provide most of their offense. The Hawks have five players averaging in double figures, with All-Star point guard Jeff Teague leading the way (17.1 points per game), plus two All-Stars in the frontcourt, Al Horford and Paul Millsap.