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Joe Johnson Lifts Streaking Atlanta Hawks — Weekly NBA Roundup [VIDEO]

Joe Johnson
Stephen Dunn, Getty Images

NBA teams have fewer than 20 games remaining in their 2011-12 seasons. Only the Atlantic and Pacific division races are still close, while the Chicago Bulls are the lone team to clinch a playoff spot thus far. Here’s what’s happening in the NBA this week:

Team on the Rise: Atlanta Hawks

Atlanta (30-20) extended its current win streak to four games with a 139-133 win over Utah on Sunday in the NBA’s first four overtime-game since 1997. The victory was the Hawks’ third in three days. Joe Johnson and Josh Smith have been outstanding for Atlanta, which has won seven of 10 games. Johnson was named the NBA’s Eastern Conference Player of the Week on Monday after he averaged 23.2 points, 5.4 rebounds and 3.2 assists while the Hawks went 4-1. Few give coach Larry Drew’s group a chance at advancing past teams like Chicago, Miami or Orlando in the playoffs, but Atlanta is talented enough to surprise.

Team on the Decline: Minnesota Timberwolves

Despite Kevin Love’s 51 points on Friday, his Timberwolves (24-26) lost to Oklahoma City, 149-140, in double overtime. The loss is representative of Minnesota’s season. Love has been among the league’s best power forwards, while teammates such as J.J. Barea, Nikola Pekovic and Michael Beasley have been inconsistent, when they haven’t been injured. The season-ending knee injury suffered recently by talented point guard Ricky Rubio sent the Timberwolves into a 3-6 tailspin. Minnesota has lost seven of 10 games overall and has now fallen two-and-a-half games out of the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

Play of the Week: Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers

Lakers star Kobe Bryant finds a way to score even when he’s hacked by Jason Kidd of the Dallas Mavericks. Watch the circus shot in the video below:

Player on the Rise: DeMarcus Cousins, Sacramento Kings

DeMarcus Cousins capped a week of solid individual performances by scoring a career-high 38 points on Monday for Sacramento (17-32). Despite Cousins’ effort, Houston beat the Kings, 113-106, in overtime. Over the past four games, Cousins has averaged 27.8 points and 13.8 rebounds. Unfortunately for the second-year center, the Kings are 1-3 in those contests. After a slow start — and a feud with now-former head coach Paul Westphal — Cousins looks to be developing into a consistent double-double threat.

Player on the Decline: Tayshaun Prince, Detroit Pistons

Normally a lock for double figures in scoring, Tayshaun Prince averaged just 7.7 points per game for the Pistons (17-32) in the past week prior to Monday’s 18-point performance against Washington. As Detroit builds for the future with guard Brandon Knight and center Greg Monroe, the versatile Prince must return to consistent production to help get the Pistons back to respectability. Detroit’s 79-77 win over the Wizards on Monday illustrates how much better they are when Prince is contributing.

Coach on the Hot Seat: Rick Carlisle, Dallas Mavericks

The Dallas Mavericks (28-22) beat Houston, 101-99, on Saturday to get a crucial win, but head coach Rick Carlisle should start feeling the pressure as his defending world champions chase a playoff berth. With the Western Conference standings so close, the Mavericks must keep winning to assure themselves a chance to defend their title. Dallas is just 7-9 since the All-Star break, and Carlisle must find a way to get his veteran team to sense the urgency of the season. Oklahoma City, San Antonio and the Lakers all have much better teams than the Mavericks right now. Dallas may have to beat two of them to get back to the NBA Finals.

Bizarre Stat of the Week: Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder

After scoring 45 and 40 points respectively in Oklahoma City’s 149-140 double-overtime win over Minnesota on Friday, Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant became the first tandem in NBA history to have 40 points apiece in two games in the same season.

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