Teague Rises Up

Tuesday, May 3, 2011
By Jon Newberry

Jeff Teague had plenty of time to mentally prepare for the task of matching up against the newly named MVP in the Hawks’ series opener against the Chicago Bulls. When Kirk Hinrich hobbled off the floor in the final minutes of Atlanta’s opening round series against the Magic it was immediately clear that Teague’s role in the second round had drastically changed.

In the days leading up to Game 1 it was hard to tell if Teague was “focused” or “nervous” as he attracted bigger and bigger crowds when the team was available to the media. On Monday night I think that question was clearly answered.

“I thought he played a heck of a game,” said Coach Drew after the game.  “He was phenomenal and played like a seasoned vet.  His attack mode and ability to get into the paint, he played like someone who had played a lot of minutes for me.  He stepped up big with the assignment he had tonight.  When he came in the locker room I gave him the game ball.”

Teague also got a lot of glowing reviews from his teammates:

Jamal Crawford: “I thought Jeff was awesome. From Start to finish he came out with a lot of confidence. That’s hard for a guy to play nine minutes in the playoffs and then come out and have to go against Derrick Rose, but Jeff did a great job. He was somebody that led us and we will continue to lean on.”

Al Horford: “Jeff was great. He kept his composure the whole game and played smart basketball.”

Going into the game a lot of the focus was on Teague slowing down Derrick Rose (which he did with help from his teammates), but Jeff also turned in a solid performance on the offensive end. He was the Hawks third leading scorer with 10 points and only committed one turnover.

“Before we went out there he told me to be aggressive, play my game,” said Teague of his instructions from LD. “You can’t get focused on being defensive, defensive, and not being able to attack on the offensive end. He told me to make sure I was aggressive in trying to get to the rim and things like that.”

All in all, it was a great debut as a starter in the postseason. If Atlanta can get similar production from Teague throughout the series it will be a huge lift in an area that was viewed as a big question mark prior to last night.

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