The Atlanta Hawks began their preseason schedule on Monday night at Philips Arena, and after a very encouraging first half, the team held on for a 93-87 victory over the New Orleans Pelicans.
The Hawks came out of the gate flying offensively, and it showed on the scoreboard. Atlanta mounted a 34-18 lead in the opening quarter on the strength of 11 for 18 shooting (61%) from the field and 5 for 8 shooting (62.5%) from beyond the 3-point arc. Paul Millsap scored eight points in the period, and newcomer Thabo Sefolosha was flying around defensively while also adding seven points and four rebounds in the opening frame.
From there, Atlanta pushed the lead to as many as 21 in the second quarter before faltering a bit as the game proceeded toward halftime. Still, 11 members of the Hawks roster scored before the break, with Jeff Teague and Mike Scott leading the way with nine points each, and as a group, Atlanta successfully moved the ball in the Mike Budenholzer offense to the tune of 16 assists on 19 first half field goals.
The Hawks did not dominate to the same level after the break, and personnel was likely a large reason. Both Paul Millsap and Elton Brand took the second half off for Atlanta, and Mike Budenholzer went with a lineup heavy in reserves down the stretch. New Orleans clawed within 3 points at 86-83 with less than 5 minutes to go in the game, but after Dennis Schröder converted a lay-up and followed it by knocking down two free throws to extend the lead to seven, the lead was never seriously threatened in route to the final margin of 93-87.
Mike Muscala was extremely productive in his 23 minutes, posting a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds to continue the visible improvement that he displayed in Las Vegas. Mike Scott added 11 points and 5 rebounds, and in the "veteran" category of the program, Jeff Teague put up 11 points (on 4 for 10 shooting) and 3 assists while Paul Millsap contributed 8 points and 4 rebounds in less than 18 minutes of game action.
Perhaps the biggest story of the night was the play of John Jenkins, who finished with a team-high 13 points on 5 for 7 shooting (1 for 2 from 3-point range) to go along with 6 rebounds and 4 assists. Jenkins was visibly limited in Summer League before seeing his time cut short, but in his preseason debut, the former first round pick looked to be back to his old self physically while contributing in a meaningful way. He will be a "player to watch" throughout the preseason, but on this night, the returns were quite encouraging.
The Hawks return to action on Saturday night, as the team travels to Memphis to take on the Grizzlies for an 8:00 pm ET tip-off. Stay tuned.