After a lengthy road trip, the Atlanta Hawks were not especially sharp on Saturday night at Philips Arena. Fortunately, the Memphis Grizzlies were depleted to the point where the home team did not need to be flawless, and Mike Budenholzer's club kept the visitors at bay in route to a 95-83 victory.
Despite entering the game as a significant favorite, the Hawks were highly underwhelming in the early minutes. Memphis pulled down seven rebounds and held the home team to just 38% shooting (and 1 of 8 from three) in the first quarter, and that led to a score of 22-18 in favor of the Grizzlies after 12 minutes.
Things got worse before they would get better, as well, with the Grizzlies stretching their lead to 31-19 with a 17-1 (!) run that stretched across the first and second quarters. Atlanta's offense stagnated during this run and the defensive end was only marginally better, consistently allowing the opposition to generate high-percentage shot attempts.
Fortunately, order was restored.
The Hawks responded in kind with two big runs of their own, and the first came with a 12-2 push that featured back-to-back threes from Jeff Teague. That brought Atlanta within a two-point margin at 33-31, and the Hawks would (finally) reclaim the lead on a Kyle Korver triple at the 2:38 mark. That long-range connection came as part of a 16-4 spurt to the close the half, and the Hawks outscored the Grizzlies by a 29-9 margin in the final moments of the second quarter.
While he was not directly responsible the run, Kirk Hinrich received his first "rotation" minutes of the season for the Hawks, and that coincided with the bounce-back. Hinrich played the final four and a half minutes of the half, leading the offense with steady play at the point guard spot, and it was certainly noteworthy that Mike Budenholzer turned to the veteran in place of Dennis Schröder, who only appeared in three minutes of game action on Saturday night.
The second half was, mercifully, more of the same from the end of the first, and that was a good thing for Atlanta. The Hawks built a significant lead on the back of a 15-4 run early in the third quarter, and from that moment on, the home team would never lead by less than double-figures. In truth, the Grizzlies simply could not match the talent level of the Hawks even on a night when Atlanta was not electric offensively, and the Hawks did enough to maintain their cushion on the way to a 95-83 victory.
While it was not a dominant effort, there were some strong individual showings that were much needed. Paul Millsap (21 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists) and Al Horford (19 points, 8 rebounds) put together productive nights in the frontcourt, while Jeff Teague connected on four threes on the way to a 18-point, 7-assist game. In addition, Thabo Sefolosha was flying around off the bench for the Hawks, scoring 13 points, grabbing 11 rebounds, playing stifling defense and producing at least two highlight reel finishes on the fast break.
The Atlanta Hawks face a quick turnaround against a more dangerous opponent in the Indiana Pacers on Sunday evening, but in their first game back from a long road trip, the team did what they needed to do to secure a win. Stay tuned.