The Hawks came into tonight’s contest with only six wins in their last 11 games and faced a Grizzlies team who is in the top four of a tough Western Conference. One team looked like the decidedly better team, and it wasn’t the team from Memphis.
The Atlanta Hawks rode a fast-paced, balanced attack to a 103-92 win in Philips Arena on Wednesday despite playing without the services of DeShawn Stevenson and Zaza Pachulia. The plan was clearly to attack Memphis in transition and not let their talented big’s set up their half court defense. It clearly worked, as the Hawks surprisingly sailed to an easy victory against a very good team.
The Grizzlies have not been without moving parts, however. In the last month, they effectively traded Rudy Gay, Wayne Ellington, Maurice Speights, Josh Selby and Hamed Haddadi for Ed Davis, Tayshaun Prince, Austin Daye and Jon Leuer. Both trades were regarded as salary dumps and predictably it will take a few weeks for the team to mesh together on both ends of the court. The Hawks took advantage by initiating their offense before the defense could get set and by doubling low-post options Gasol and Randolph at every chance.
Arguably, this is the Hawks most complete victory since the ball dropped in New York City to ring in the new year. The two Creighton alums in the Hawks starting linueup, Korver and Tolliver, were matchup problems for the newly acquired wings of Memphis. They combined for 4-10 shooting the three pointer and 13 rebounds. Along the way, Kyle Korver matched a franchise record of hitting at least one three in 42 straight games, tying Mookie Blalock.
Without Zaza Pachulia to bang against the great Grizzlies backcourt, Ivan Johnson stepped in and threw down a couple of big slams for emphasis. John Jenkins also stepped up and contributed to the Hawks shooting 10-24 on three pointers for the game. It was clear the energy level was heighted for this matchups and the Hawks certainly made a statement to the rest of the league to not forget about the team from the Dirty South.
Look for the Hawks to build upon this victory as they push toward the All-Star break and the trade deadline. Despite being just one victory, it will be important to stop the prolonged slide in the standings that may have Atlanta facing off against a difficult opponent in the first round of the playoffs.
1. Jeff Teague: Teague continued his aggressive streak by putting up a monster 22 point, 13 assist line. He blew by the slow-footed Grizzlies and found Korver and Tolliver spotting up in corners for easy buckets. In his previous 10 games, Teague has 8 games with double digit points and 9 with at least 6 assists. A switch may have been flipped a few weeks back, as Jeff pushes to get paid in the offseason.
2. Josh Smith: For the first half, Josh struggled with his shot but he was able to rebound for a 19 point output on 13 shots. He tied with Al Horford for most rebounds with 11 and added 6 assist and 3 blocks. Basically, it was a normal Smoove performance.
3. Al Horford: Al Horford rounds out a 3 for 3 from the Hawks’ post-Joe Big 3. Horford was able to stretch the defense, as usual, by knocking down 18 footers and helped neutralize Marc Gasol to the tune of 4-13 shooting. Horford proved his worth by running and finishing in transition like few other centers in the league. Horford also blew by a milestone by reaching 2000 career field goals in this game.