The Atlanta Hawks fell behind early but righted the ship in time for a 93-82 win over the Memphis Grizzlies. It was the Hawks first game back after a long road trip and while admittedly they weren't sharp, they did enough to hold off a depleted Memphis squad.
"It was a little bit of a strange game," Mike Budenholzer told reporters following the game. "We got down early, going into the second quarter. Just proud of the group for getting themselves right. Defensively, I thought we were pretty good for most of the game. Offensively, the ball movement...especially in the second half, the ball movement was good. Different guys stepped up and played well. It's a good win coming off the road trip."
At this juncture of the season, the Hawks aren't interested in style points, they just need to accumulate as many wins as possible if they hope to position themselves for homecourt advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
"Credit to Memphis for how well they've been playing for what seems like a long time with a lot of injuries starting with Marc Gasol and a few more since then, and especially lately," Budenholzer said. "Dave Joerger and his staff and his players, the way they're competing and fighting every night...they had an overtime game last night. I don't know if they wore down or not, but I think at some point, we were able to get a little bit of separation. On both ends of the court, we played well enough."
Atlanta trailed 31-19 early in the second run but finished the half strong on the back of a 12-2 run and a 29-9 jaunt at the end of the first half. Those runs also coincided with the first rotational appearance of veteran Kirk Hinrich who played 15 minutes off the bench and finished with three assists and no turnovers.
"We were up 18-14 at the three-minute timeout (of the first quarter). We had a poor finish to the quarter," Budenholzer answered when asked about the decision to insert Hinrich into the lineup. "I just put Jeff back in to kind of change the mix a little bit. Kirk has been working hard in practice. Kirk is a pro. We feel like Kirk is going to help us. Tonight was just one of those opportunities.
Those minutes came at the expense of normal backup Dennis Schröder who turned the ball over twice in just three minutes at the end of the first quarter.
"At the end of the day, You're going to need your whole roster, you're going to need everybody confident and ready to play. We went with Kirk to give Jeff a break. Then we went with him again in the second half."
Paul Millsap led the way with 21 points while Al Horford added 19. Jeff Teague and Kyle Korver combined to knock down seven of the Hawks' 11 made three-pointers in the contest. Thabo Sefolosha added a double-double off the bench with 13 points and 11 rebounds.
"I think it was just the defense, and feeding off the defense," Sefolosha said when asked about his double-double after the game. "We were playing with good hands and everything, and we were able to get some steals and then fast breaks."
With the win, Atlanta improved to 37-29 on the season and picked up a game on both Boston and Miami in the East standings. The Hawks are back at it on Sunday when they finish off a home back-to-back against the Indiana Pacers.