Most of the 2014-15 season has been about Atlanta's defensive intensity and a focus on rebounding the basketball. Whey they have come out and played well defensively and given a solid effort on the boards they have usually won the basketball game. After allowing 120+ points to the Toronto Raptors on Wednesday, naturally defense was again the focus coming into Friday's game against the Pelicans.
The Hawks responded holding New Orleans to 40 percent shooting for the game and played them to a 42-42 stalemate on the boards. Head Coach Mike Budenholzer was pretty pleased with the effort following the game.
"I'm just happy with the defensive effort. In the first half, it gave us some separation," said Budenholzer. It put us in a position where we could play the second half with a lead. In the third quarter be basically maintained. In the fourth quarter, sometimes it's hard when the opponent starts putting their head down and driving and getting to the paint. They made some shots. We were able to execute and score and find a way to get a good win against a good team. It's very challenging to guard their bigs. All three of them have different skills and different things they can do do. The defensive effort of our bigs was really good. Hopefully we can build on this going forward."
In Atlanta's last three wins they have held their opponents to 37 percent shooting (Pistons), 42 percent shooting (Wizards), and 40 percent (Pelicans). They either won the rebounding battle or drew even in each of those three victories. More so they set the tone early and avoided the slow start that has plagued them at times this season. Its a very small sample size but more and more it is looking like a formula for success for this team.
"It was a lot of things," said Budenholzer. "The focus coming out, the activity. Our bigs took on the challenge of what was given to them tonight. The activity of the guards away from the ball - showing a crowd, shifts and all of those things - put us in a good position. We were able to get defensive rebounds. The weakside activity was good, coming across and helping each other. We were getting rebounds and were able to go the other direction."
Atlanta's point guards continue to shine
Jeff Teague put up another monster performance finishing with 26 points and seven assists on 10-16 shooting. Teague has been on a complete tear is having one of the best stretches of his career. He's scored at least 23 points in each of the last five games and is averaging 25.8 points on 54 percent shooting over that span.
"We just came out aggressive on both ends," said Teague. "The team did a really good job of playing good team defense. We just helped one another. We have a lot of talented scorers in that group. We didn't pay attention to individuals, we just worried about how we could be effective as a team."
Teague isn't the only Atlanta point guard that is playing well as second-year man Dennis Schröder is also playing well. Schröder finished with 11 points and two assists in Friday's win over the Pelicans which followed a 13 points and six assist performance on Wednesday. Budenholzer has toyed with a dual point guard lineup at times this season and Teague and Schröder caused all sorts of problems for the Pelicans' backcourt Friday night.
"Each night is a little bit different," said Budenholzer. "They were good tonight. Dennis had a really good stretch there when he played with Jeff. He was able to get to the paint and create some shots. It's a night-to-night thing. Obviously tonight it was something that was positive."