The Atlanta Hawks got a lift from a pair of unlikely places as they opened the preseason with a 93-87 win over the New Orleans Pelicans. Both John Jenkins and Mike Muscala turned in solid efforts in helping lead the team to the win.
For Jenkins it was the light at the end of the tunnel so to speak on his long road to recovery from last season's back surgery. Jenkins got the start at shooting guard and finished with a team-high 13 points on 5-7 shooting.
Perhaps most impressive was where those points came from. Jenkins is known primarily as an outside shooter but all but one of his field goals came either drives to the basket or off a cut. Additionally he grabbed six rebounds and handed out two assists all while improving on the defensive end of the floor.
"We are all excited for John to be healthy," said head coach Mike Budenholzer. "You can see his confidence in practice. You can feel his confidence even when he's just walking around the facility. He's got a bounce."
With Al Horford and Pero Antic both sidelined on Monday there figured to be plenty of minutes available for second-year center Mike Muscala. He took advantage of the opportunity and showed that continued growth that we saw this summer during summer league.
Muscala logged a double-double off the bench finishing with 10 points, 10 rebounds, two assists and two blocks in 23 minutes. He went 4-7 from the field. Perhaps most impressive was how he went at it defensively against the Pelicans' bigs.
"I was just playing within the offense and trying to bring energy," said Muscala. "I was just trying to be active on the boards. I think that is something I can bring to the team this year."
Going into the season we already felt like the Hawks had a deep roster. The performances by Jenkins and Muscala in the preseason opener illustrated that. There will be plenty of competition for playing time and its going to give Budenholzer a number of options at his disposal.