Jeff-Teague-150303-Dribbles-AI-300The Atlanta Hawks became the first team to clinch a playoff berth this season following a 104-96 home victory over the James Harden-less Houston Rockets on Wednesday morning.

It was the Hawks fifth victory in a row, while the Rockets (41-19) saw their five-game winning streak snapped.

There are still 22 regular-season games remaining and the Hawks (48-12) show no sign of slowing down, particularly because of the team’s continued chemistry and team effort.

Jeff Teague ignited the Hawks with a game-high 25 points and Dennis Schroder came off the bench to add 16 points and a game-high eight assists.

The Hawks outscored the Rockets 32-15 in the fourth quarter to close out the match-up between two legitimate championship contenders.

One of the major talking points of the game was clearly the absence of league-leading scorer Harden, who was suspended for one game by the NBA after kicking LeBron James in their 105-103 overtime win over Cleveland on Sunday.

In the absence of Harden, Jason Terry came off the bench to score 12 of his team-high 21 points from beyond the arc for the Rockets, who used only three reserve players.

Harden, who is rightly in the MVP conversation this season, missed his first game of the campaign and the Rockets fell to the Hawks again, losing the regular-season series 2-0.

Harden has been a key piece for the Rockets, not only because of his 27 points per game, but also because of his vocal leadership for Houston.

The All-Star guard is expected to be back in the line-up Wednesday when Houston hosts the Memphis Grizzlies.

In one of the highly-anticipated games of the regular-season, the Hawks will host Cleveland on Saturday morning.


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