The Atlanta Hawks held on to capture their first win of the new season with a 102-92 win over the Indiana Pacers. It wasn't the sharpest performance for the Hawks who appear to still be putting things together but they controlled the game throughout and didn't blink when the Pacers made a late charge.
There is still work to be done in the rebounding department
We previously highlighted Atlanta's rebounding issues in Wednesday's season opening loss to the Toronto Raptors and the Hawks coaching staff made it a priority to improve. Mike Budenholzer talked about it at shootaround before the home opener and put pressure on his guards to pick up their effort on the boards.
"We talked a fair amount and watched some film on how we need to improve as a rebounding team," Budenholzer said. "I think for us it was a mantra last year and going forward if we are going to be good we are going to have to be good rebounding and our guards are going to have to contribute. Our guards are going to have to participate. I don't think we did that to the level that we expect and we want."
While the guards did a much better job against the Pacers, the results as a whole still weren't really there. Atlanta was out rebounded 44-37 overall but surrendered 11 more offensive rebounds which led to 24 second chance points for Indiana. Conversely the Hawks managed just three offensive rebounds and just five second chance points.
Atlanta's guards did pick up their effort on the boards with DeMarre Carroll leading the team with nine and Budenholzer was pleased with that outcome after the game. Carroll acknowledged that the coaching staff challenged him to do a better job on the boards.
"He got on all the guards about our rebounding," said Carroll. "I told him I was trying to be nice to the big men. He said ‘No, you just need to get the rebound.' I said ‘OK.' I had to go tell all my big men I have to get back to eight or nine rebounds and there you go."
Al Horford and Paul Millsap were limited to just seven rebounds combined in Saturday's win. Horford acknowledged the guards contributions on the boards but recognized the need for improvement.
"Our guards rebounded better," said Horford. "However, we gave us some offensive rebounds there. Credit to our defense, we held them to a lower field-goal percentage. I think we can still be better in that area. We were much better than the first game but we can still get better."
Rebounding wasn't as big an issue on Saturday because the Hawks shored up other areas of their game. As Horford mentioned, they held the Pacers to just 38 percent shooting and did a much better job of taking care of the basketball and finished with just 13 turnovers. They were also aggressive in getting to the line where they were 25-33 for the night.
On Saturday, the Hawks were good enough on the boards to pull out a win but there is still work to do.
Al Horford working his way back into shape quickly
Al Horford continues to work his way back into sync within Atlanta's offense and he looked much more comfortable in Saturday's win over the Pacers. Horford knocked down 9-14 field goal attempts and finished with 20 points. He hit a couple of big baskets down the stretch as Atlanta held off Indiana's late rally but he was much less hesitant with his offense than what we saw Wednesday in Toronto.
"He [Horford] is getting more of a rhythm," said Mike Budenholzer after the game. "Even though he didn't have a lot of boards tonight he goes up and won some important ones with his length. I think he is getting more comfortable on the offensive end and finding ways where he can contribute. His jumper, he is a great mid-range shooter and he'll continue to work on that. He is a player who will help our offense a lot."
Following the game, Horford acknowledged that he felt much more comfortable than in the opener.
"I just wanted to bring a lot of energy, said Horford. "I think the defense was leading to a lot of my offense, our team defense in general. Like I said, this is going to be a process but I felt much more comfortable today."
Aggressive Jeff Teague is a good Jeff Teague
Motivation never seems to be an issue for Jeff Teague when the opponent is Indiana. Teague got off to a great start and closed the door late finishing with 25 points to go along with six assists and just one turnover. Mike Budenholzer talked about Teague's game and the tough decisions an opposing defense must make when faced with Atlanta's pick and roll at the end of games.
"At the end of games there are a lot of pick-and-rolls," said Budenholzer. "To a certain degree, we have to take what the defense gives us. He had an opportunity to make some shots. If they take him away, we feel like with have Paul (Millsap) or Al and we have the floor spaced. It's not any different for us. When teams put us in pick-and-rolls it's hard to guard and you have to make tough decisions. Jeff was excellent in closing out the game."
Teague struggled a bit to finish at the rim but made up for it by going 10-10 from the free throw line.
One thing that has stood out to me over the first two games is how confident Teague looks shooting the basketball. Whether it is on a spot up attempt for three or a pull up off the pick and roll, he looks much comfortable shooting the basketball. That is a welcome sight considering his early struggles last season.