The league’s best player so far this season — Anthony Davis — arrived in Atlanta with his Pelicans on Friday night and he left with a 100-91 defeat to the Jeff Teague-led Atlanta Hawks.
Teague’s hot night started off early, where he scored eight points in the first seven minutes of the game on a mix of floaters and layups. His magnificent play continued throughout the game, as Teague was weaving and scheming off of a bevy of screens, resulting in a 26-point, seven-assist night for the Atlanta point guard.
After giving up 126 points to the Raptors on Wednesday, the Hawks’ defense locked down on Friday, allowing just 28 points in the first half. Part of that was the Pelicans employing Austin Rivers as a starter, but Atlanta’s big men did a great job at contesting shots at the rim and the guards were fighting hard through screens to prevent New Orleans from getting open looks on the perimeter.
The Hawks were only 5-for-17 (29.4%) on 3s for the night, but an important make came late in the fourth quarter from DeMarre Carroll. With the shot clock winding down after a Davis block on Al Horford, Paul Millsap kicked the ball out to Carroll in the corner, who promptly sank a contested 3-pointer to push the Hawks’ lead back to 10 points.
“I just caught the ball,” said Carroll, “and like Kyle [Korver] always tells me, jump up and shoot it and believe it’s going in. That’s what I did. I jumped up, got up underneath. I knew it was going in as soon as it left my hand.”
Carroll finished with 19 points, his best scoring night of the season.
Neither Millsap nor Horford played great, but both played well enough considering their competition in the frontcourt. Horford strugged to make open shots (5-for-15 shooting) and Millsap had trouble holding onto the ball (four turnovers), but both made up for it with consistent play elsewhere in their games. Both defended the rim well, rebounded, and made plays on offense when they needed to. Millsap had four steals for the game, which moved him into a tie for first place in the league in steals per game. (with John Wall)
Thabo Sefolosha missed a second consecutive game with flu-like symptoms, but Kent Bazemore stepped up admirably in his place. Bazemore played 15 minutes and accumulated three points, five rebounds, and two blocked shots. His offense is still a work in progress, but the defensive energy he brings is a definitely plus for this Hawks team.
Dennis Schröder continued his great play off of the bench, scoring 11 points in 17 minutes. Schröder, like Teague, has benefitted this season from the presence of Al Horford, who is a critical component of floor spacing for the Hawks.
One thing I really liked from this game was Horford playing more with Pero Antic at times instead of Mike Scott. Both Antic and Horford can defend and the spacing when the two are on the floor is magnificent. While I do not want to see Scott phased out of the rotation, it was nice for him to only play one rotation after it was clear his shot was not falling and that Horford and Antic were working well together.
For the Pelicans, Jrue Holiday, Ryan Anderson, and Tyreke Evans all played really good games. Davis was held in check by the Hawks’ defense and he was only 5-for-14 from the field. Austin Rivers, who started in place of the injured Eric Gordon, was laughably bad and scored zero points on 0-for-8 shooting. The Pelicans are going to have a hard time if their bench is so shallow that they are forced to play Rivers for 20 minutes a night.
The Hawks have a quick turnaround and will play the Charlotte Hornets on Saturday night at home to conclude their four-game, five-night stretch. A Hawks win and a Washington loss tomorrow would move the Hawks into first in the divisional standing with a 9-6 record.