OAKLAND (CBS / AP) — Golden State Warriors coach Mark Jackson asked his players a simple question during Friday’s morning shootaround: How many of them had ever been on a team 14 games over .500?
Only veterans Jermaine O’Neal, Steve Blake and Andre Iguodala raised their hands.
With so many home games remaining, the opportunity in front of the Warriors is rare. Golden State took another step forward Friday night by easing past the Atlanta Hawks 111-97 for its third straight win.
“We’re chasing greatness,” Jackson said. “We’re not going to be satisfied. We’re going to continue to try to chalk up Ws, continue to battle and continue to celebrate where we are as a basketball team. It’s a great time. And if nobody else knows it, we know it.”
David Lee had 18 points and six rebounds, and O’Neal came off the bench to add 17 points and eight rebounds to lift the Warriors (39-24) a season-high 15 games over .500 with a relatively smooth win.
Iguodala and Stephen Curry each scored 13 points to help Golden State build a 66-52 halftime lead and go ahead by 20 in the fourth quarter. The Warriors, fresh off a 4-2 road trip, are 8-2 since the All-Star break and beginning to look like the team that roared to the second-round of the playoffs last year.
“I’ve been 15 under in New York a bunch of times and when I first got here,” Lee said. “It says a lot about the direction this organization’s headed that we’re breaking through and reaching goals like that.”
Paul Millsap had 16 points and seven rebounds after missing the last five games because of a bruised right knee for the Hawks, who have lost five straight. Mike Scott added 14 points and DeMarre Carroll and Jeff Teague scored nine points apiece as Atlanta continued its late-season slide.
The teams traded baskets for most of the first half until the Warriors put together a 12-1 spurt in the closing minutes that the Hawks (26-34) never recovered from.
“We lost our focus,” Atlanta coach Mike Budenholzer said. “We lost our mental toughness at the end of the second quarter and they were able to get out on us to like a 14-point lead going into halftime. That stretch really hurt us.”
Golden State began a stretch of nine of 11 and 13 of its final 20 games at Oracle Arena. The Warriors want to use the finishing stretch to re-establish their home-court advantage and make a run at the Los Angeles Clippers, who are four games ahead in the Pacific Division.
The Warriors, who needed Iguodala’s 3-pointer as time expired to beat the Hawks 101-100 in Atlanta on Jan. 3, allowed little drama in the rematch.
Draymond Green’s 3-pointer capped a run that put the Warriors ahead 97-77 with 6:09 remaining in the fourth quarter. The depleted Hawks, with big men Al Horford and Gustavo Ayon out for the season, never seriously challenged.
The only major setback for the Warriors came when shooting guard Klay Thompson limped to the locker room six minutes into the first quarter with a strained lower back. He did not return for precautionary reasons, the team said.
Thompson has been Golden State’s most durable player the past three years. He has played in a franchise-record 211 straight regular-season games to start his career.
Jackson said Thompson could’ve started the second half, but there was no reason to with the Warriors in control.
Millsap moved Atlanta within four early in the third quarter, but he had little help inside. Golden State led 85-77 entering the fourth quarter before pulling away.
“We got away from what we’ve been doing,” Millsap said. “It’s kind of tough to lose that discipline, especially when you’re on the road.”
NOTES: Curry has made at least one 3-pointer in 51 consecutive games, the longest active streak in the NBA after Kyle Korver’s league-record 127-game streak ended in Atlanta’s loss at Portland on Wednesday. Korver was 1-for-5 shooting from beyond the arc against the Warriors. … The Hawks play at the Clippers on Saturday night. … The Warriors host Phoenix on Sunday.
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