The Hawks were able to pull out a 104-94 victory over the Magic to move to 3-3 on the year and 2-0 at Philips Arena. Jeff Teague led the Hawks effort with 19 points and 13 assists. Paul Millsap had a double-double of his own with 18 points and 11 rebounds, and Mike Scott came off the bench to score 17 points.
Hawks vs. Magic
The Hawks held a 28-22 lead after the first quarter, but a very game Orlando Magic team never allowed the Hawks to pull away. At the half, the Hawks lead was trimmed to one as the Magic picked up their defensive pressure, holding the Hawks to 18 points on 38.1% shooting.
Atlanta began the third quarter on an 18-2 run and looked like they would run away with an easy victory, but the Magic answered with a 24-6 run of their own to keep their deficit to just one entering the fourth quarter. The Hawks were finally able to pull away from the Magic towards the end of the fourth quarter. The Magic took an 88-87 lead with 3:50 to play, but the Hawks went on a 10-0 run from that point on their way to the 10 point victory.
Kyle Korver extended his three-point streak to 79 in the second quarter, passing Dennis Scott and tying Michael Adams for second on the all-time list. He is 10 behind Dana Barros’ record of 89 consecutive games with a three-pointer. Korver put together a nice all-around performance with 14 points, eight rebounds, and five assists and drilled a three in transition with two minutes to play to give the Hawks a seven-point cushion.
The Hawks’ ball movement was incredible as the Hawks had 36 assists on 43 made baskets. Ball movement is one of the major points of emphasis in Coach Bud’s offense, and the Hawks executed that aspect very well against the Magic. Teague led the team with 13 assists and the big men got in on the act with seven dimes from Al Horford and four from Millsap.
Teague has quickly caught on to Bud’s system and recorded his fourth double-double on the season. Teague’s taken advantage of his pick-and-roll/pop partners and the shooters on the outside and found his rhythm in the offense. Not only is Teague getting his teammates involved, but he is doing so without turning the ball over too often, with an assist-to-turnover ration of 3.2-to-1.
“Jeff’s in a good place,” said Coach Budenholzer. “He starting to really understand that he’s got a lot of opportunities and a lot of responsibilities with the way we play, and I think he’s getting better and better. When you look at the stats, it’s impressive, but I feel like he can do more. So that’s the exciting part.”
Millsap and Horford (aka Pal Horsap) have become one of the most dominant frontcourts in the NBA early this season. The pair combined for 33 points, 18 rebounds, 11 assists, five steals, and six blocked shots against the Magic. They have quickly learned how to play off of each other on the offensive end and are getting better each game defensively in knowing where the other will be. I asked both about their early success, and neither player is surprised at how quickly they have been able to get on the same page.
“Not at all. Not at all,” said Millsap. “We’ve been talking about it since we both got here that it’s going to be imperative that we get it. As long as we get it, I’m sure that everyone else will follow the way. He’s a very smart player. Reading off of him and he’s reading off of me, it makes it a lot easier.”
“I’m encouraged at the progress we’ve made, I wouldn’t say I’m surprised,” said Horford. “He’s a smart player, I’m a smart player and we play off each other. I’m encouraged more than anything and I’m happy we’re able to bond so quick.”
Horford got it going in the fourth quarter, making a few key shots late mostly from the mid-range. He found that against the bigger frontcourt of the Magic, there weren’t many opportunities rolling to the hoop, so he and Teague had to change their strategy.
“I think most of the game I was trying to roll hard to the basket, and I found they were doing a great job defensively so Jeff couldn’t really get me the ball. So, Jeff was like, ‘Hey, you got a pop back and just take the jump shot.’ We’ve been doing this for years and that’s what I did, I started popping and I got open shots and knocked them down.”
Defensively, Horford continued his stellar play. He limited Magic center Nikola Vucevic to just seven points and six boards on 30% shooting. Horford had four blocks in the game, which is the third time this season he’s accomplished that feat. Coach Bud and Al both talked about the defensive performance
“Al Horford’s defensive activity and defensive will has been great. Not only tonight, but I think really since day one. I think he’s trying to lead the group defensively, and we have a long way to go, but I think Al’s setting a tone with his activity and his effort to lead us in a better direction defensively,” said Budenholzer. “I think Al was making his catches difficult. We want to do our work early on the post before they get the ball into the post. Then, I think Al’s a smart defender. He used his length at times, he blocked his shot one time when he went back to the reverse. He just did a little bit of everything, but what we’re focused on is doing your work early in the post.”
“It was a big point of emphasis just containing him as much as possible. Boxing him out, that was my focus.”
The Hawks power forward tandem of Scott and Millsap played excellent against the Magic combining for 35 points. Scott found his success shooting from the perimeter, while Millsap mixed it up, going inside and stepping out for the mid-range jumper. They faced a few different matchups, but both had the same strategy when matched up against the bigger Jason Maxiell and made a point of forcing him to defend them away from the basket.
“I want to get enough separation from him, cause I know he’s going to want to come in there and bang,” said Millsap. “I don’t want to get into a pushing match, cause it’s a long game. Just want to get separation from him and not get into a wrestling match.”
“I’m not going to win that battle picking-and-rolling or dumping down to the post and trying to play one-on-one with him,” said Scott. “He’s much stronger, so I just used my jump shot abilities and my quickness to try to score on him.”
Their performance against the Magic was very encouraging and was probably their most complete game of the season. The Hawks have now scored 100+ points in every game this season, and Atlanta’s defense gave up fewer than 100 for just the second time this season. They will look to build off of this performance in the coming week as Atlanta will travel to Charlotte on Monday to face the Bobcats before returning home for a match-up with the Knicks on Wednesday.
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