The Atlanta Hawks snapped their three game skid — and began their five game road trip — by knocking off the Indiana Pacers 96-85 in Indiana. We’ll get to Dwight Howard’s line in a bit, but Paul Millsap also had a significant impact in this game, scoring 18 points, collecting 11 rebounds, dished out five assists, came up with four steals and blocked three shots.
Reacquainting with an old friend
Jeff Teague spent seven years in Atlanta before requesting a trade this summer. This request was granted with Teague heading to Indiana in the deal that sent George Hill to Utah and the 12th overall selection in the 2016 draft heading to Atlanta.
Chris Vivlamore of the AJC posted a story about Jeff Teague, it’s worth worth checking out. Jeff talks about Atlanta’s ceiling with himself and Al Horford, Dennis Schröder and more. Here’s an excerpt from the piece, the day Teague found out he was headed home:
“When Bud calls you it’s either really good or really bad,” Teague recalled Wednesday morning before his new and former teams met for the first time since the trade. “I said most likely it’s really bad because it’s the summer time and he’s calling me.”
Teague said Budenholzer’s voice cracked. That’s when he knew there had been a trade. The first thing Teague wanted to know was where he was headed.
“I kept reading that I was going to Philly,” Teague said. “I was like he’s going to send me to Philly. Nothing wrong with Philly, great place, great organization. I was like ‘C’mon. C’mon.’ I didn’t even think this (Indiana) was happening. I thought it was Utah, Dallas or Philly. He said, ‘I sent you home.’ I said, ‘Indiana?’ He said, ‘Yeah, I might regret this, but I’m thankful for what you did, and I appreciate you.’”
Ha-ha, “I might regret this”. Considering the Pacers are now 7-9, it’s pretty unlikely (even though it’s still early) that the Hawks and Pacers are going to meet in the playoffs, I don’t think he’ll be regretting it too much now.
Anyways, last night was the first time the two parties met since that trade, in a matchup that Teague called “awkward”.
“It was awkward but it was fun to compete. I wish we could have won.” — Jeff Teague
It was cool to see Teague smiling and catching up with his old teammates pre-game and fun to see him head over to Bob Rathbun and Dominique, as they were live, and pretend to stroke Bob’s hair.
I was excited to see him and Dennis Schröder get after each other, but the matchup was underwhelming in the end. The two didn’t really get after each other and the two didn’t have the greatest games, Teague scoring 11 points on 5-of-15 shooting while Dennis put up nine points on 3-of-11 shooting. That was disappointing, and now we have to wait until March to see Jeff Teague again when the Pacers come to Atlanta.
Dwight Howard’s 23-20 game
Dwight Howard absolutely feasted last night in his matchup with Myles Turner. Howard bullied Turner and the Pacers all night long as he went off for 23 points and a season high 20 rebounds.
Dwight used his muscular advantage to just destroy the Pacers inside. It was the first time I wanted to see Dwight in the post a little bit because he was actually using his size to his advantage, and not just banging down low with a guy who can absorb the punishment. But the encouraging thing to see was that Dwight was ready to go from the first second.
“He came out with a mindset from the beginning of the game. It felt like he was getting every offensive board.” — Coach Mike Budenholzer
Myles Turner has been fun to watch over his young career, but last night’s matchup with Dwight put into perspective the work he still needs to do to become an anchor of a team’s defense.
“He’s a second-year player trying to anchor your defense and try to defend the basket. This is a learning experience for him. He has to develop into that center of the future for us.” — Pacers head coach Nate McMillan
Turner himself didn’t have a lot to say about the matchup.
“It was a tough battle. He had a good game. Not much you can say.” — Myles Turner
Nestled within Dwight’s 20 rebound nest were nine offensive rebounds, vital in the Hawks’ battle of the boards, which they comprehensively won 56-36, grabbing — as a team — 17 offensive rebounds that led to 19 second chance points. The Hawks also outscored the Pacers 48-34 in the paint and this, along with the second chance points, were huge reasons why the Hawks won this game.
Great night for Dwight, although he may face a tougher test when he squares off against Rudy Gobert and the Utah Jazz on Friday.
Limiting Paul George
Paul George made a return for the Pacers last night having missed the previous three games with a sore ankle and he struggled to make an impact, he didn’t look like Paul George — 18 points on 6-of-22 shooting and 2-of-11 from downtown.
Kyle Korver (rest) didn’t travel with the team and Coach Bud inserted Thabo Sefolosha into the starting lineup and he did a great job defending Paul George, as did Taurean Prince at times although he was called for a couple of fouls in a row in the fourth quarter. Thaddeus Young did go off for a season high 24 points but you’ll take that, if it means Paul George is shooting from 6-of-22.
“The defense, really it takes everybody, but that guy who is assigned to Paul George has got his work cut out for him. A ton of screens for him, a lot of off-the-ball action, when he has the ball a lot of pick-and-rolls. He is a tough cover. I thought Thabo was good and Taurean had some good minutes on him. We tried to make it difficult on him.” — Coach Mike Budenholzer
“Just looked like he (Paul George) was short on his shots and didn’t really have rhythm. He had some open looks that we know he normally knocks down. His shot was short a few times.” — Coach Nate McMillan
They did make it difficult for sure, but it definitely looked like George didn’t have the spring in his step that we’re used to seeing and this can definitely be attributed to the sore ankle he has been dealing with. But again, the Hawks defense deserved credit, they did what they had to do: limit PG.
Making it at the line
Every player except THJ and Thabo Sefolosha shot free throws last night and, other than Dwight Howard (who shot 3-of-5 from the line) and Taurean Prince (1-for-2), everyone made all of their attempted free throws. Malcolm Delaney, 6-for-6. Mike Muscala 3-for-3. Paul Millsap, Kent Bazemore and Dennis Schröder, 2-for-2. The Hawks made their opportunities at the free throw line really count last night, making 19-of-22 free throws while the Pacers only converted 10 free throws last night.
It’s those little things…
I don’t think this has something that has been talked about this year… The Hawks turned the ball over another 21 times last night leading to 22 Pacer points. The starters contributed for the majority of these: Dennis Schröder and Kent Bazemore turned the ball over four times each while Millsap, Thabo and Dwight all coughed the ball up three times each.
It’s still early, but this issue doesn’t look like it’s going anywhere soon.
Strong bench game
This Atlanta offense is capable of struggling even with Kyle Korver in the side and Thabo is known to struggle with his shot sometimes. Korver didn’t travel with the team and Thabo shot 2-for-8 last night, so it was important that the bench stepped up and they did. Mike Muscala scored 10 of his 13 points in the first quarter and Malcolm Delaney also chipped in with 13 of his own.
What stood out to me more was some of the plus/minus ratings. THJ, who didn’t even score last night (shooting 0-for-6 last night) finished with a plus/minus rating of plus-13, that’s pretty impressive. Malcolm Delaney had the best plus/minus rating of all: plus-26 and Taurean Prince (who had a great game last night, that’s how you make your claim for some minutes) finished with plus-23.
Bud only went nine deep last night, which is unusual for Bud especially in the regular season. I know Korver was missing, but that’s still a little surprising.
Make yourself comfortable, Thabo
In the dying embers of this game, Thabo Sefolosha decides to take a seat next to a young Pacers fan. Seemed like a pleasant exchange, it was nice to see. And entertaining, since the game was still going on.
The Hawks (10-5) will head to Salt Lake City for the first game of their Western Conference road trip with the Utah Jazz on Friday night. Happy Thanksgiving to all who celebrate the day. Enjoy the games toni- Oh, yeah… No games on Thanksgiving. Sad face.