The Atlanta Hawks pushed their winning streak to three straight games Tuesday night with a 91-84 win over the Utah Jazz. Atlanta improved to 3-1 on its current five-game road trip and to 17-16 on the road overall this season.
Defense has been the Hawks' calling card since the calendar flipped to 2016. Atlanta leads the league in defensive rating since January 1 and clamped down on the Jazz Tuesday holding them to just 35 percent shooting while forcing 20 turnovers.
The Jazz made 11 of their first 23 field goal attempts and scored 27 points in the opening quarter. Atlanta clamped down from there and allowed 26 points over the next 20 minutes. The Hawks took control in the third quarter outscoring the Jazz 25-15 to turn a one-point halftime deficit into a 66-57 advantage.
Atlanta has held opponents to less than 45 percent shooting in eight straight games. They have held opponents under 40 percent in five of their last six.
Tuesday's win clinched a winning trip for Atlanta which given their struggles coming out of the All-Star break didn't seem like a likely outcome. Atlanta must fly across the country to Toronto before returning home for a back-to-back this weekend.
This Hawks team has been in search of its calling card all season long but it seems to have found it on the defensive end of the floor. It isn't just the starters that are defending well, but it is everyone up and down the roster. The addition of Kris Humphries gave the team another big body and a veteran option and seems to have solidified the team's rotation. Last season's team peaked about a month too early, this year's version may be finding its stride at the most opportune time.
Jeff Teague continues stellar second half
Jeff Teague scored seven of his game-high 24 points over the final three minutes of the fourth quarter of Tuesday's game to help the Hawks nail down the win. That performance was a continuation of what has been the best stretch of games for Teague this season. Mike Budenholzer talked about Teague's aggressiveness at both ends of the floor with reporters after the game.
"I thought Jeff was good everywhere tonight," Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer said. "He's in an aggressive place and mindset. He's seeing some holes and some opening where he can attack. When he's attacking, everything else comes."
Over his last 15 games, Teague is averaging 17.2 points and 6.4 assists while shooting 49 percent from the field. He is knocking down three-pointers at a 45 percent clip over that span.
We have discussed many times that the point guards, Teague in particular, seem to drive the Hawks' success. When he is playing well, Atlanta is usually playing well and both he and Dennis Schroder have given the Hawks a solid one-two punch so far during the second half.