Mavericks vs Hawks: Defensive intensity fuels comeback

Kevin C. Cox

After sleepwalking their way through the first half the Atlanta Hawks finally woke up and got back to doing the things that make them successful.

The first half of Friday night's game against the Dallas Mavericks was a neat little snapshot of everything that had been plaguing the Atlanta Hawks during their three-game losing streak. Stagnant offense, missed rotations, no blockouts, and what looked like an overall lazy attitude.

Defensively this team isn't good enough to go through the motions against any opponent and especially not against a talented offensive team like the Mavericks. The part that is concerning is that we see these same mistakes over and over it seems. Jeff Teague goes under a screen and gives up a wide open three-pointer to Jose Calderon. Tegue or someone else is beaten off the dribble by Monta Ellis, the help comes and then the next player gets lost on the rotation giving up a wide open three. Al Horford does everything right defensively and then simply doesn't block out and gives up an easy offensive rebound. That is just on the defensive end of the floor.

On the offensive end what was once a thriving fast paced offense that was full of player and ball movement has suddenly choked itself out. When the pace slows then this team has to be more precise in its offensive system. That means you have to know it inside and out and it is clear that the Hawks don't fully trust the system just yet. There is too much thinking, hesitating and not near enough reaction.

Fortunately, they snapped out of it in the third quarter. Or more precisely Paul Millsap and Jeff Teague pulled everyone else out of their funk. There was Millsap in the third showing hard on pick and rolls getting deflections, forcing bad passes and raising the intensity level across the board. Once the Hawks had the ball they got it in Teague's hands who once again looked like the catalyst to their offense.

Teague hammered away at the Mavericks in transition, sometimes forcing the issue even when nothing was there. The result was 25 points and six assists and the Hawks needed every single one of them on Friday night. The rest of the team followed Millsap and Teague's lead and the result was the best defensive quarter of the season in the fourth for the Hawks.

Atlanta held Dallas to just 12 points over the final 12 minutes. The Mavericks shot just 16 percent in the final quarter going 3-19. Atlanta out rebounded Dallas 14-9 while holding Monta Ellis scoreless in the fourth. The Hawks got contributions from unlikely places. Shelvin Mack scored just three points but his defensive contribution down the stretch was substantial. Cartier Martin went 1-5 from the floor but played the entire fourth and looked like he was trying on the defensive end. Perhaps others on the roster should take note.

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