Atlanta jumped out to a 10-2 lead early in the first quarter and never looked back on their way to a dominant 107-90 victory over the Grizzlies in Memphis on Saturday night. Even without Dwight Howard, who was held out for rest, the Hawks defense was smothering, holding the Grizzlies to just 37.8% from the field and a 94.1 offensive rating.
Dennis Schröder set the tone for Atlanta from the beginning of the game, stalking opposing point guard Mike Conley step-for-step throughout the contest. The rest of the Hawks took the cue, suffocating Memphis at every turn. Atlanta’s trademark defensive scheme of protecting the paint and allowing their opponents shoot three-pointers worked beautifully against a Memphis team that plays through center Marc Gasol and can struggle to space the floor. Every time Gasol caught the ball in the post, two defenders were in his face and the other three collapsed into passing lanes to take away the Spaniard’s best skill. Kris Humphries started in Howard’s place in the middle, drawing the unenviable task of having to bang with Gasol, but the reserve big man did an admirable job.
The story of the first half was Taurean Prince, who set a new career high with 12 points early in the second quarter en route to a 17-point night on just six shots. More than once, Prince grabbed a defensive rebound or loose ball and pushed for a layup on the other end, showing off the skills that brought him to Atlanta as the 12th overall pick in last year’s draft.
Kent Bazemore jumpstarted the Hawks in the third quarter, scoring the first eight points of the half for Atlanta. Bazemore finished the game 6-for-10 from the field, a welcome sight after five straight games under 50-percent shooting to start the month of March. Paul Millsap chipped in 16 points, 11 rebounds, and 6 assists and Schröder added 16 points and 8 assists to accompany his work on the defensive end.
The win over Memphis was the Hawks fifth game in the past seven days and their third win in a row. Next up is the San Antonio Spurs on Monday, before welcoming back these same Grizzlies into Philips Arena on Thursday.