Grizzlies vs Hawks: Defensive improvement required

Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Random observations from Sunday's Atlanta Hawks preseason loss to the Memphis Grizzlies at Philips Arena

After five preseason games one thing that is painfully apparent for the Atlanta Hawks is that they are going to have to get much better defensively when the regular season rolls around. The Hawks have gotten off to tough starts throughout the preseason in large part to a struggling offense but have also struggled to defend the perimeter. Memphis shot 42 percent overall on Sunday but were 9-for-14 from three point range. A lot of that can be attributed to Jarryd Bayless who was 6-6. Some of his attempts were good makes on his part but a couple were blown coverages.

The Hawks have also struggled with their transition defense at times where they have failed to get back to prevent layups or have failed to rotate out to shooters. Part of this can be attributed to it being the preseason and many different players being in and out of the lineup.

The Hawks did a reasonable job defending the interior on Sunday against the Grizzlies' stellar frontline. Marc Gasol finished with 10 points but only three rebounds in just under 22 minutes. Zach Randolph was essentially a non-factor finishing with four points and five rebounds.

Mike Budenholzer talked about how his team has dug itself early holes recently and attributed it more to missing open shots than to breakdowns in the offense:

"We need to look at the film a little bit but so far in the preseason, not just today, we are getting a lot of good shots. Unlike Jerryd Bayless, we are not on fire. I feel like the group is getting good shots, getting good looks. At times, obviously, it's not perfect. I think the 6-for-26 that we started, without looking at the film, I felt like we had a lot of good shots, we just didn't make them."

Here are some more thoughts from Sunday's game:

  • DeMarre Carroll had a very DeMarre Carroll type of game. He was all over the place and extremely active on both ends of the floor. He went 3-for-3 from three-point range but was 0-for-4 from everywhere else and failed to finish inside at the rim.
  • Paul Millsap clearly had his best game in a Hawks uniform having a solid impact at both ends of the floor. He did leave late in the game with a sore Achilles so that is something to keep an eye for the remainder of the preseason.
  • Al Horford wasn't super active offensively making 3-of-7 attempts and finishing with eight points and five rebounds. He did find Kyle Korver with a couple of nice passes that led to three-point baskets.
  • Korver went just 2-for-8 from the floor while finishing with seven points and five assists. Korver picked up three fouls in span of a minute and a half during the third quarter and fouled out early in the fourth.
  • Jeff Teague quietly turned in a solid performance with 15 points and five assists on 5-of-9 shooting. Budenholzer praised Teague for his play at both ends of the floor following the game and indicated that he sees Jeff becoming much more comfortable in what they are trying to do both offensively and defensively.
  • Jared Cunningham was the first guard off the bench and played just under 16 minutes. He failed to make a field goal going 0-for-5, but was able to get to the free throw line where he was a perfect 8-for-8. He often looks out of control and struggled to finish against the Grizzlies' bigger defenders but he was constantly on the attack. He's going to have to improve defensively to get meaningful minutes once the regular season arrives.
  • Dennis Schröder returned to action on Sunday after sitting out Thursday's game with a sore knee. He looked out of control early but seemed to settle in and played better in the later parts of the game. He finished with six points, five rebounds and one assist and showed a nice pull up jumper off the pick and roll from about 18-20 feet. He went 0-4 from three-point range where it almost looked like he altered his form to compensate for the added distance. The Hawks did experiment with a two point guard lineup featuring both Teague and Schröder.
  • Pero Antic failed to hit anything from the perimeter and finished 2-for-7 but had some good defensive moments particularly with his positioning inside.
  • Cartier Martin made his debut in a Hawks uniform and struggled going 1-for-12 to finish with two points.
  • Royal Ivey, Shelvin Mack, Eric Dawson and James Johnson all received DNP-CD's
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