Jeff Teague set a career high with 33 points on 10-of-16 shooting along with 10 assists and four rebounds in leading the Hawks to a 113-103 victory over the Sixers. Teague was extremely aggressive on the offensive end and dominated in the pick-and-roll game. Teague got to the line 13 times, making 12, and it was his third game of the season with more than 10 free throw attempts after not attempting more than eight in any game last season.
Teague’s aggressive play shows in his shot chart as 11 of his 16 attempts came in the restricted area, where he made seven of them. Teague spoke about coming out in the second half with a different mentality.
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“Mike Scott told me I just needed to be more aggressive. Honest. We came in the locker room and he said they’re going at you, you need to be a little more aggressive and attack. Just trying to play my hardest to get the win. Al and those guys were telling me to use my speed and try to get to the rim and it was working out for me. It was a good game for me. We have another one tomorrow, that’s the beauty of the NBA. You have to get back at it.”
Speaking with other Hawks players, they all raved about Teague’s performance and all pointed to him growing as a player and being more assertive and aggressive.
“I told him at the end of the game that that was the best I’ve seen him play since I’ve been here,” said Lou Williams. “I was excited for him, and it was weird because he was more excited for my first two points and I was like, ‘Dude, I’m excited for you.’ But Jeff’s growing and I think the better he gets the better our team gets.”
“Yeah, definitely one of the best games he’s played,” said Al Horford. “Usually in the fourth, in the New York game, he was a little shy and you know he made it an emphasis to go out and be aggressive and that’s how we need him to play.”
“He got going a little bit so we stuck with him,” said Coach Bud. “We had him in a good place. I think the message throughout preseason and training camp was that when he’s aggressive usually something good is going to happen. We just keep hammering that to him. We want him to be more aggressive.”
Lou Williams made his season debut in poetic fashion against the team he began his career with. Williams entered the game at the 4:23 mark of the first quarter and was effective in 16 minutes of play with seven points, three rebounds, and two assists. Williams went 3-of-8 from the field and had a positive impact on both ends of the floor. After the game Williams spoke about his return to the court.
“It felt good, I wasn’t as nervous as I thought I would be. I was more nervous before the game then when I actually stepped out on the court, but it felt good to get out there with the guys and just grinding and trying to win a game. It felt great. It always helps when you’re making shots, I think that might’ve helped me play for a couple extra minutes right there. Overall the experience was great and now I’m looking forward to building on it.”
As to whether his knee injury ever crossed his mind on the court, Williams said it was never a thought.
“No, that’s the funny thing about it. Dr. Andrews said just put a basketball in my hand and I’ll be fine, he said that months ago and it ended up being true because the only time I don’t think about my knee is when I’m actually playing.”
Despite being sidelined from games, Williams looked comfortable on the court, and he said that he is fully up to speed on the Bud’s system.
“I was fine . I’ve been going through the offense with the team for about a couple months now, so I was fine in that area since training camp running through everything with the guys. Overall I just felt good and I look forward to building on it.”
As to how Lou impacts his teammates, Horford emphasized the lift he gives them off the bench.
“Oh, great. Great, man,” said Horford. “A great lift, instant offense off the bench. I was just happy to see him not hesitant out there. He just played his game and he never missed a beat. Just excited to have him back in the lineup.”
Coach Bud raved about Williams’ ability to impact the game on both ends of the court because of his basketball IQ and the way he goes about playing the game.
“It’s great to have Lou Williams and Gustavo Ayon back and I think they played well and helped us at different times during the game,” said Bud. “I think the thing that stands out the most about Lou is he really understands how to play basketball. It seems like a very simple, boring thing to say, but it’s a huge compliment to Lou. Really, on both ends, a lot of people focus on and he made a few nice plays on offense, but I have a vision him on pick-and-roll coverage with his hands up and getting a deflection and getting a steal. I have a vision of him on V-Back getting a body, getting a defensive board, getting a loose ball. I think he just understands what it takes to win and he has a very good way about him, subtle way about making those plays. Even the play at the end of the quarter where he lets the ball bounce and gets it to DeMarre in time to make the shot. He’s just got a good feel.”
Gustavo Ayon also made his season debut and got the starting nod at center. Ayon played nearly 17 minutes and had six points, four rebounds, and five fouls. Ayon impressed with his agility defensively on pick-and-roll coverages and around the basket.
“It felt good. I got a couple minutes and be good…it’s fun,” said Ayon. “Last two weeks it’s really hard practice and all days before the game, after the game, and my legs are strong. Only my shoulder is a little weak, but I’m ready.”
Al Horford continued his strong play with 20 points, eight rebounds, three assists, and three blocked shots. Horford had eight of the Hawks’ first 15 points and started out at the power forward spot next to Ayon. Horford’s “natural” position has been debated as to whether he should be a four or a five, and after the game Horford spoke about playing both and how he approached playing with Ayon.
“I’m comfortable playing both positions and Gustavo’s a professional and he knows how to play. For me it was just going out there and doing the same thing and playing with the same energy I do every time. The only difference is I actually got to score the ball early in the game.”
The Hawks’ three-point and free throw shooting were two big keys in the win. Atlanta was 25-of-31 (80.6%) from the charity stripe and went 10-for-23 (43.5%) from beyond the arc. Carroll set a career-high with his five three-point makes, and Kyle Korver made three three-pointers on the night to extend his consecutive games streak to 82.
The Hawks will travel to New York tonight and will face the Knicks tomorrow night at Madison Square Garden. They will be looking to avenge the recent loss here in Atlanta to the Knicks and will have to do so without Williams who, as Bud said before the game, will not be available for back-to-backs initially as he comes back from injury.
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