Kevin C. Cox
The Hawks improved to 30-23 on the season with a 122-108 victory over the Kings at home behind great performances from Jeff Teague, Al Horford, and Josh Smith. Also, Dahntay Jones and Jeremy Tyler talked for the first time as Hawks.
The Hawks were looking for a bounce-back win after a tough loss Wednesday against the Heat and, after a rough start (down 33-25 after the first quarter), they were about to hit their stride and cruise to a 122-108 victory. Jeff Teague led the Hawks second half surge with 20 points, 12 assists, four rebounds, three steals, and three blocks (his fifth 20/10 game of the season). Teague's game was a microcosm of the season as the Hawks struggled in the first quarter when he was passive (0 points, two assists) and struggling on defense (Isaiah Thomas had 12 in the first), but excelled in the second and third quarters when he was aggressive at both ends of the floor (18 points, six assists, two steals). Larry Drew has stated all year that Jeff has to be the one driving the bus and that the Hawks feed off of his energy, and he reiterated that message tonight.
"He got more aggressive. He started attacking the basket, he started pushing the basketball, defensively he got up on his man, got the steal off of Fredette. Again, you can tell, at least I can tell, when he's in that 'aggression mode' he just makes us so much better. We just have to keep him there."
"I think everyone in this locker room knew we needed this win, and just locked down and focused and we did that," said Teague. "I was just able to get some stops and get out and run, when we're able to do that we're a pretty good team."
Al Horford also had a big night leading the Hawks with 24 points, eight rebounds, six assists, and two blocks. Al shot 11-for-14 from the field and had 13 points and seven boards in the second half as he too turned up his energy level. Al talked about the Hawks' first quarter struggles and how they were able to turn the game around.
"I think we got seduced into playing their style. We weren't doing a good job getting back on defense. I think they were pushing the ball and exploiting our defense without being set. They kind of got rolling and once we made some adjustments in the second half, we were better. We started [the game] with a big lineup. When Kyle comes in the game, it changes everything because he's creating movement and getting other people involved."
Josh Smith was happy to be done talking about trade rumors and happy to be back with his teammates after so much speculation in the past few weeks. Josh was very efficient, shooting 8-for-12 from the field for 18 points along with six boards and four assists. Smoove also took on DeMarcus Cousins in the second half and was effective on the Kings big man (who Josh said was the best center in the NBA after the game, emphasizing "on the court").
"We locked down defensively [in the second half]. We made it tough for those guys to get in our paint and did a good job limiting them to one shot and we were able to get out on the break. Whenever we're running and having fastbreak opportunities that adds up to success for us."
"Just starting inside out. Inside out opens up the game a whole lot and I was able to find some easy layups, Jeff found me on a couple, Al did as well, pindown for Kyle is always a good success slipping to the basket because he turns the corner so hard off the pindown...It's very fun. Whenever we're unselfish, we all dig a little deeper on the defensive end as far as helping each other out, and we were just having fun with each other tonight."
DeShawn Stevenson also had a huge night, hitting 5-of-6 three point attempts and scoring a season-high 17 points. Stevenson got the start for the second straight game and caught fire in the second quarter hitting all three of his three-point attempts and helped the Hawks cut into the Kings' 13 point lead. Stevenson hasn't shot the ball well of late, but showed that when he gets hot, he will fill it up from three point range. Larry Drew said after the game, "DeShawn doesn't want plays run for him, he just plays defense and, if it comes open, he'll take a shot."
The Hawks victory improved them to 30-23 before they embark on a six-game, 11-day road trip that begins tonight in Milwaukee and ends in Denver. Atlanta will visit the Bucks, Pistons, Jazz, Suns, Lakers, and Nuggets on the road trip.
While the Hawks didn't make the big trade everyone was waiting for, they did acquire two new players who arrived today and passed their physicals just before game-time. Dahntay Jones was activated just before game time and played just over two minutes at the end of the blowout win. Jones talked after the game about what he can bring to the Hawks.
"[Coach and I] spoke briefly, but not about my role on the team yet, but he knows what I bring to the table and I'm just here to help and keep this train moving forward. I'm a defender, I play extremely hard, I communicate well, and I'm just trying to be a glue guy and do whatever it takes to help the team win. I'm very excited, for the attitude on the defensive end, how they move the ball, and how they run the floor."
Jeremy Tyler was also cleared before the game, but was inactive for the game. Tyler spoke briefly after the game and feels he fits in very well with the up-tempo style of the Hawks.
"Very exciting. This fast pace, a lot of talent, a LOT of talent, they seem like they're doing something really special here and I just want to be a part of it. I've always been considered an athletic player, someone who's going to run the floor and rebound and go after it."