ATLANTA (AP) – Atlanta provided a riposte to those assuming this season’s NBA champion will come from the Western Conference by recording its ninth-straight win over such opponents with a 96-86 victory over Memphis on Wednesday.
The Hawks moved 2-1/2 games clear atop the Eastern Conference standings while one of their chief rivals in that race, Chicago, suffered a heavy home-court defeat at the hands of struggling Utah.
League-leading Golden State overcame a slow start to beat Indiana, while Houston comfortably beat a Cleveland team that is floundering in the ongoing absence of LeBron James.
Atlanta’s Jeff Teague scored 25 points, including a 3-pointer during a 10-0 scoring run that broke open a game that had been locked 84-84 and sent the Hawks to their 20th win in 22 games.
Mike Conley’s 17 points led Memphis, which remained in a virtual tie with Dallas for the Southwest Division lead.
Houston roared past Cleveland in the fourth quarter to notch a 105-93 road win.
James Harden scored 21 points while Dwight Howard had 17 points and 19 rebounds for the Rockets.
The Cavaliers played their sixth straight game without LeBron James, who is due to return in a week from a strained back and knee.
Kyrie Irving scored a season-high 38 points for the Cavaliers, who lost their fourth straight at home, while JR Smith didn’t score in 19 minutes in his Cleveland debut after being traded from New York.
During the game, Cleveland announced its second big trade in three days, acquiring centre Timofey Mozgov from Denver in exchange for two first-round draft picks.
Golden State’s Klay Thompson scored 40 points to help the Warriors shake off a slow start and beat Indiana 117-102.
Thompson made 14 of 25 shots, including 6 of 11 from 3-point range, and Stephen Curry added 21 points and a season-high-tying 15 assists to help the Warriors stretch their home winning streak to 13 games.
The Pacers pulled ahead by 11 points early and gave Golden State a rare fight despite centre Roy Hibbert limping off with a sprained ankle in the first quarter.
The Warriors roared back to tie it at 50 at the half, opened the third quarter with a 14-1 run and made the game look easier than it really was with the final margin.
Solomon Hill scored 21 points for Indiana.
Utah used a strong defensive effort to win 97-77 at Chicago.
Derrick Favors had 20 points and 11 rebounds while Gordon Hayward had 18 points for the Jazz, which has more road wins than home wins this season.
The Jazz held the Bulls to a season-low point total on just 28-of-84 (33.3 percent) shooting. The Bulls were averaging 103.1 points.
Gordon Hayward had 18 points for Utah (13-23), and Trey Burke scored 17. Seven of the Jazz’s wins have come on the road.
Jimmy Butler contributed 16 points and 11 rebounds for the Bulls, who were held to their lowest score of the season – 26 points below their average – due principally to shooting at just 33.3 percent.
Detroit stretched its out-of-the-blue winning streak to seven with a creditable 108-95 win at Dallas.