The Atlanta Hawks continue to find a way as they dispatched the Memphis Grizzlies 96-86 Wednesday night to extend their winning streak to six straight games.
"We were able to find a way the last three or four minutes to get one more burst and get some stops on the defensive end," said head coach Mike Budenholzer after the game. "The last three or four minutes, we had different guys making plays, and shots and passes. For a lot of the games, we were just trying to get closer to playing a whole 48 minutes. It was great to see that we finished tonight."
A lot of things have been said about this Hawks team that has surged to the top of the Eastern Conference standings. One thing that hasn't been talked about enough is their unshakable confidence and poise late in games. Atlanta saw an 11-point fourth quarter lead slip away on Wednesday and never blinked. The game was tied at 84-84 with 2:58 remaining before Atlanta closed things our with a 12-2 run to seal the victory.
"We just stuck with what we were doing," said Budenholzer. "It wasn't something glaring. They had some guys step up and make some plays. Tayshaun Prince got going and hurt us in a few different areas. It's a credt to them. We obviously can always do things better. We'll find things to work on. Losing the 11-point lead was a credit to them and their defense. A couple of their guys stepped up and made big plays. We were able to reverse it a little bit in the last couple of minutes."
"We got some stops," said Al Horford who finished the game with 12 points. "Then Jeff hit that big three. Then we were able to get another stop and Kyle hit another big three from the corner. I felt like those were the two key plays."
Teague was magnificent again with 25 points and six assists. He was 3-4 from three-point range but none were bigger than the one he made with 1:19 remaining that put Atlanta up 89-84.
"We were just playing," said Teague when asked about the late run. "It was the flow of the game - early offense. Coach always says if we see something out there that we can do, and we have confidence, we can do it. I felt confidence in that shot."
Atlanta's defense continues to sparkle
The Hawks continue to play well defensively and have been opportunistic of late in forcing turnovers and turning those into points. Atlanta recorded 17 steals against the Grizzlies on Wednesday and are averaging 11.7 per game over their six-game winning streak. That is about two more steals per game than their season average.
"The activity defensively is hopefully creating turnovers," said Budenholzer. "We've been talking about doing it within our principles and within how we defend. When our activity is at a high level, then we can be solid and still create turnovers. I thought that was a huge part of the first half."
Atlanta held the Grizzlies to just 86 points and their defensive rating improved to 100.2 points per 100 possessions which is the fifth best mark in the league currently. Atlanta did a good job of shutting down the perimeter against Memphis limiting them to just 5-17 shooting from three-point range. They also did a good job limiting Marc Gasol who finished with a solid but rather quiet 16 points and seven rebounds.
"Gasol hit some unbelievable shots," said Budenholzer. "The individual defense by both Al and Pero on Gasol was to be commended. The overall activity in the first half defensively - the turnovers and steals - again created some opportunities for us offensively. We just want to keep building off that defensive mindset."
Loud Philips Arena crowd helps motivate team
The Hawks fell just short of another sell out Wednesday night but the Philips Arena crowd was another loud and enthusiastic group.
"Tonight, to play in front of our home crowd, there were times when we fed off their energy," Budenholzer said. "I think the guys really felt it. That leads to more activity and more turnovers. I thought the crowd really helped us tonight."
Al Horford echoed that sentiment. "It's good to be home. The crowd was great tonight. When Kyle hit that three, it was like a playoff atmosphere, how loud it got in here. It was just good to be back here."