The Atlanta Hawks went through what might have been their final tune-up of the preseason Wednesday night in an 82-81 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies. They will wrap up their preseason schedule on Friday in Detroit, but may elect to not play many of their regulars given that they open the regular against those same Pistons next Tuesday.
Wednesday's game offered a glimpse at what the rotation might look like to open the season. Budenholzer shortened the rotation to 10 players with 9 of those making an appearance in the first half. All five starters logged at least 30 minutes led by 36 for Jeff Teague.
What exactly the rotation will look like may still be a bit unclear. What is clear is that Budenholzer will have options at several spots. Mike Muscala was given minutes as the fourth big against the Grizzlies with Mike Scott getting the night off. That spot could be an area where Budenholzer elects to mix and match depending on matchups or whether or not his team needs an offensive spark off the bench.
Tim Hardaway Jr. didn't see any action until the second half. Budenholzer rolled through lineups in the first half that included going big with Paul Millsap at small forward and going small with Teague and Dennis Schröder both in the lineup.
Atlanta's offense never really got on track after the first quarter shooting 38 percent for the game. The bench was the main culprit as they combined to go 5 for 26 from the field. Still, Budenholzer was pleased that they found themselves in a competitive game where they were forced to make a comeback in the fourth quarter.
"I think we had a good first quarter," Budenholzer said. "How we end up behind 13 is obviously not good. But to have a fourth quarter in a preseason game with some intensity, coming back and making a run, getting in a position to win the game, and having a few plays we didn't make is a good experience."
Here are a few other thoughts from this game and the preseason.
Budenholzer continues to tinker with the big lineup
I have been outspoken at times saying that I didn't think the big lineup was something we will see on a regular basis once the regular season arrives. Budenholzer has continued to tinker with it throughout the preseason. Memphis is a team where it likely makes some sense given their size and the fact that Millsap can guard a guy like Jeff Green.
The reasoning for the Hawks makes sense. Most coaches want their best players on the floor at the end of games and Tiago Splitter probably is among Atlanta's five best players. However, the fit is still not quite there offensively. It will be really interesting to see if Budenholzer continues to run the big lineup up out there every game or if it becomes much more situational once the regular season arrives.
Kent Bazemore looks like the opening night starter at small forward
Budenholzer mentioned both Kent Bazemore and Thabo Sefolosha when asked about who will start at small forward on opening night. While he stopped short of saying for certain, Bazemore looks like the safe bet given that he has started throughout the preseason and that Sefolosha is still working his way back to being 100 percent.
Bazemore played well on Wednesday scoring a team-high 18 points on 7 of 10 shooting. "I thought Baze had a very good game tonight, Budenholzer said. "Defensively his energy and offensively attacking the basket, making some pull-up shots, making a corner three and getting to the basket. I think it was good to see Baze play they way he did. He was a big part of us being able to come back and make it a competitive game. That was really good."
Al Horford continues to work the three-point shot into his game
The three-pointer has been a part of Al Horford's game throughout the preseason. Horford found enough room to launch five attempts against the Grizzlies on Wednesday and is now 6-16 over the preseason. While he did knock down a pair of mid-range attempts against Memphis, the three point attempts have reduced the number of mid-range shots that he has attempted.
This is likely to carry over into the regular season as well. We may not see Horford actively seeking out three-point looks as frequently as the preseason, but he won't be afraid to let one fly when the defense doesn't respect him. It adds another dimension to his game and to Atlanta's offense.