In their first round loss to the Indiana Pacers, the Atlanta Hawks disappointed across the board. A stagnated offense and a Swiss cheese defense doomed Atlanta in the first two contests, but after a change in head coach Larry Drew’s strategy, hopes for a Hawks upset rose in two straight home victories. Eventually, they collapsed and the team inevitably fumbled early into their postseason. Plenty of the team’s failures can be placed on individual players, and one of the most appalling of disappearances in this first round defeat was of Jeff Teague, the starting point guard of the Hawks.
Although he’s yet to make himself a big name in the league, (an infuriating trend for talented Hawks players) Teague’s performance in these playoffs was far less than desired or expected. Teague’s season has shown improvement in his facilitating game when compared to previous exhibitions, yet when the playoffs started, Jeff floundered. This comes as a shock to any of Teague’s followers, as he’s been known to enter “Playoff Teague” mode once the regular season ends. This essentially means he takes on an increasingly aggressive role, upping his game to new heights.
This wasn’t the case here in 2013, partly due to Indiana’s strong defense, but also to Teague’s reluctance to attack the paint. Indiana ranks 11th in the league in fewest points allowed by opposing point guards, and fifth in lowest opposing point guard FG%. This strong point guard defense was on display as Teague’s statistics plummeted, making for an abysmal showcase. Here’s a comparison of his regular season statistics to his output against the Pacers:
When a player’s minutes and USG% increase, and their shooting and assisting drop dramatically, it’s never a good thing. But why couldn’t Teague get on track offensively?
The main problem between his lack of scoring and distributing was Teague’s curtailment of driving to the basket. As you can see below by his shooting distribution in the regular season compared to the playoffs, Jeff settled for more mid-range (contested pull-up jumpers) and non-restricted area (heavily-defended floaters) attempts in the series against the Pacers, electing not to face off with Roy Hibbert and David West right at the basket. Getting to the rim would create plenty more opportunities for teammates by making the defense have to be worrisome of Jeff’s forays into the paint, as well as creating easier points for himself.
Not only did Teague refuse to attack his way to the cup, but his teammates weren’t knocking down shots either. Indiana’s opponents shot the worst three-point percentage in the league during the regular season, and Larry Drew turning to a three-big lineup two games in gave Teague one less shooter to find open. The Hawks shot 37.1% from downtown on the year, but this mark dropped to 33% in their series against the Pacers. Speaking of threes, Teague shied away from attempting those as well, shooting half as many per-36 minutes in the playoffs than he did in the regular season. This shot has become a staple in so many successful offenses, and it’s a huge burden to the offense when much less are attempted and they fall at a worsened clip.
The Pacers effectively shut down Jeff Teague as they did his Hawks team with their stellar interior defense and quick close outs on the perimeter. Yet still, Teague needs to take on blame for not taking it upon himself to take the ball right into Indy’s frontline and making them work. As a point guard, Teague is the initiator of the offense. Unfortunately, he did not play as such in the postseason. This lack of aggressiveness plagued both Teague and his team as a whole in this series, and hopefully will be an impediment that can be corrected by the start of next season.