Archives For Jeff Teague

LeBron James dunked with 37 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter to end a 13-1 run that drew the Atlanta Hawks within 91-87. Kent Bazemore’s layup with under a minute to play kept it close before James scored then combined with Iman Shumpert to ice the game at the free throw line. The Cleveland Cavaliers won 97-89 at Phillips Arena to take Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals.

In worse news for the Hawks, DeMarre Carroll sprawled on the ground and writhed in agony after suffering what appeared to be a serious left knee injury with five minutes remaining in the fourth. Carroll had to be helped from the court as he was unable to put any weight on his left leg. His diagnosis will not be confirmed until he can get an MRI.

James finished with 30 points, eight rebounds, six assists and a steal and JR Smith added 28 points (including 8-for-12 shooting from 3-point range), eight rebounds, three assists and a block. Cleveland seized control of the game with a 22-4 run spanning the third and fourth quarters. Smith hit the second of consecutive 3-pointers with 2:30 to play in the third to put the Cavs in front 71-63, then opened the fourth with three more to put Cleveland ahead 85-67. He also assisted Tristan Thompson on an alley-oop during the run. Continue Reading…

For the fans, it seemed like this was going to end the most Atlanta-way possible.

Late in the fourth quarter with a four-point lead, all the Hawks had to do was get the ball inbounded and take the foul to go to the free throw line. The inbound pass found its way to Al Horford, the steady rock for the Hawks, the franchise cornerstone… but Horford panicked, causing a turnover.

The turnover led to two free throws for the Wizards and with with seven seconds left, the Hawks found themselves in the same spot: they just needed to get to the free throw line.

This time Horford held on to the ball and took the foul, and he headed to the free throw line. There, Horford missed the first, the ball bouncing off the rim four times before finally caroming out. Horford connected on the second free throw, putting the Hawks up three with seven seconds remaining.

And then Paul Pierce happened… or at least, so we thought. The Hawks’ defense on the Wizards was stifling for those seven seconds, forcing Pierce to take a heavily contested, fadeaway corner 3. Pierce, who has been a thorn for the Hawks ever since the 2008 first round series between the Hawks and Celtics, continued to torture the fans of Atlanta, sinking the improbable shot as the buzzer was sounding. Continue Reading…

Hawks game operations tried to conduct a post-game interview with Al Horford over the PA system after the game.

The crowd was so loud that it went on deaf ears.

Horford hit the game-winning layup after crashing the boards off of a missed Dennis Schröder drive to give the Hawks an 82-81 win and a 3-2 lead over the Washington Wizards in the Conference Semifinal. The shot was the bookend to a dominate game for Horford, who led the Hawks with 23 points, 11 rebounds, and five blocked shots.

“Al has been the cornerstone for us — for the Hawks — for a bunch of years,” said Kyle Korver on Horford. “It wasn’t just that play, though. Al played an amazing game.”

Horford was the steady force for the Hawks over the final 5:31 of the fourth quarter, which started with the Hawks down 73-64. In that time period, Horford scored nine points off of two free throws, a corner 3-pointer, a 20-foot jumper, and the game-winner. For good measure, Horford also blocked a layup attempt by John Wall and assisted on a DeMarre Carroll layup in transition during the Hawks’ comeback.

“We didn’t quit after being down,” said Horford.

Horford was not the only one to lead the Hawks down the stretch, as Coach Budenholzer made a surprise move by going with Dennis Schröder at point guard to close the game.

“We’ve been trying to keep Jeff kinda fresh, where he doesn’t get fatigued playing long stretches, so we were giving him a minute or two there around the five minute mark. We had him at the table to go back in. We made several plays and Dennis made a couple of them himself, and Jeff took over coaching and said leave him in.” Continue Reading…

Since I referred to Atlanta’s bench in the Game 3 preview as “a liability in the post-season,” here’s what they’ve done: In Game 3, five of seven reserves posted a positive plus-minus, including double digits for Shelvin Mack (plus-16), Mike Scott (plus-15) and Mike Muscala (plus-10). In Game 4, three of four reserves posted a positive plus-minus.

I like the fact that coach Mike Budenholzer took the performance of Scott and Mack from Game 3 and put it in his pocket for Game 4. In last year’s Game 5 win over the Pacers, the pair combined for 37 points, including 7-for-10 shooting from 3-point range. However, in the 10 intervening playoff games between Game 5 of the Pacers series and Game 3 of the Wizards series, Scott shot a combined 18-for-53 (34%) from the field and 5-for-26 (19%) from 3-point range. Although Scott and Mack have made an annual tradition of going off for one playoff game, the pair remain the lowest performers in net rating (the difference between what the Hawks score per 100 possessions with a player on the floor and what opponents score).

By contrast, Muscala has burst onto the scene with the best defensive rating (93.9 opponents’ points per 100 possessions) and net rating (plus-11.3) of any Hawk with at least four playoff appearances. His offensive rating is fourth behind Millsap, DeMarre Carroll and Jeff Teague in this group. It’s an extremely limited 37-minute sample, but the returns have been so positive that Muscala has surely earned more minutes. Continue Reading…

Paul Pierce had another chance to terrorize the Hawks on Monday night. With eight seconds left on the clock, Pierce shot around a huge Nene screen and had an open 3-pointer for a chance to tie the game.

Apparently he didn’t call game this time.

Pierce missed the open shot, allowing the Hawks to walk away with a 106-101 victory to tie the series at two games apiece. The win gives home-court of the series back to the Hawks, having lost it by dropping Game 1 at home.

The biggest change for the Hawks was the play of Jeff Teague, who had his best game of the playoffs. Teague was out of control at time, but his aggression was a welcome sight from how he had played the first three games of the series. Teague finished with 26 points, eight assists, four rebounds, and what became the dagger 3-pointer, which he hit with 1:12 left to put the Hawks up seven.

Teague’s play did enough to offset the work of Washington’s Bradley Beal, who was absolutely magnificent with 34 points, six rebounds, seven assists, and three steals. In the absence of John Wall, Beal took over the Wizards’ offense successfully, often imitating Wall by just out-dribbling the Hawks down the floor in transition. Beal has been great for Washington in this series and there is a huge reason for the Hawks to be concerned by him in Game 5. Continue Reading…

The way the Hawks played at the end of Game 3 against the Wizards was a breath of fresh air. There was defensive activity, ball movement, and open shots that actually went it.

Of course, this was not from the Hawks’ starters. This was Mike Muscala, Mike Scott, Dennis Schröder, and Shelvin Mack finally playing the way that the fans were accustomed to in the regular season. These players fought back from 20 points down to tie the game. Of course, the Hawks wound up with a loss, but the effort and revitalization of the bench was a welcome sight for Atlanta fans.

On Monday night, it’s time for the fans to see that effort from the starting unit.

In the first-round series against Brooklyn, the problem with the Hawks is that the bench unit was awful, save for Pero Antic. This somewhat carried over in the start of the series against the Wizards, forcing Mike Budenholzer to shorten his bench rotation as much as possible. However, the Hawks’ starters — except for DeMarre Carroll — have also had a problem for the nine games they have played so far in the playoffs: they have not made shots.

Jeff Teague’s true-shooting percentage in the playoffs? 46.0%, down from 56.6% in the regular season, a difference of 10.6%. Kyle Korver? 58.9%, which is still good, but it is down from 69.9% in the regular season. Paul Millsap? 50.4% in the playoffs, 56.5% in the regular season. And Al Horford? 49.2% in the postseason compared to 56.3% in the regular season. Continue Reading…

With the news that John Wall suffered multiple non-displaced fractures to his non-shooting hand and wrist in Game 1, the complexion of the Hawks-Wizards second-round playoff series has changed dramatically. However, Wall’s backup Ramon Sessions has the third-best net differential in the playoffs for the Wizards. Washington is outscoring opponents by 13.1 points per 100 possessions with Sessions on the floor, trailing only Wall (plus-15.6) and Otto Porter (plus-16.1). Thus, the Hawks’ chances of advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time in its 47-year Atlanta history continue to weigh disproportionately on the shoulders of one player: Jeff Teague.

Before I talk about times in the past when Teague has tried to be a hero for the Hawks and fallen short, let’s discuss how he became Atlanta’s key to the post-season on the heels of the greatest regular season in franchise history. In the pre-season, while NBA TV analysts Reggie Miller and Rick Fox were predicting that the Hawks would miss the playoffs, I wrote that this was the deepest team in Atlanta Hawks history.

When I wrote that piece, I wasn’t expecting Dennis Schröder to have a break-out season. The Hawks appeared headed for the playoffs with a full roster when Thabo Sefolosha returned March 25 after missing 23 games with a strained calf. Then, as they so often do, things went wrong for the Hawks. Paul Millsap suffered a bruised shoulder against the Nets April 4. Prior to an April 8 road game in Brooklyn, Sefolosha suffered a broken leg while being arrested by NYPD. Then, in the second-to-last game of the season, Hawks sharpshooter Mike Scott suffered a bruised back against the Knicks. The Hawks once again headed into the playoffs with injuries looming over their season. Continue Reading…

Please click through to Truth About It, the ESPN TrueHoop Network blog covering the Washington Wizards. TAI’s Adam Rubin and I preview tonight’s Game 2. Here’s a snippet:

During the season, the Hawks led the NBA in effective field goal percentage in catch-and-shoot situations (55.7%). The Hawks were middle-of-the pack in effective field goal percentage on pull-up shots (41.6%, 11th). Thus, any time the Hawks shot a jumper that did not result from a pass, it effectively trimmed their field goal percentage by 14 percent. Taking step-back jumpers in isolation is not Atlanta Hawks basketball.

The Wizards had nearly an entire week to prepare for the second round after they had swept the Toronto Raptors.

The Hawks had little more than a day.

After finishing off the Brooklyn Nets on Friday night, the Hawks had a quick turnaround to face off against the Washington Wizards on Sunday afternoon. The result was rather unsurprising: the Hawks looked great early, but appeared to be out of gas by the fourth quarter. Everyone on the Hawks was missing open jumpers, they were moving less on offense, and the defense was a step slow in completing rotations. Because of this, the Hawks’ 10-point halftime lead turned into a 104-98 loss.

After posting over 50% shooting in the first half, the Hawks put up a dread 13-for-52 (25%) in the second half. DeMarre Carroll, who scored 21 points in the first half, only made one bucket in the final 24 minutes. Kyle Korver was 2-for-9 on mostly open 3-pointers in the second half. The shooting was so bad that Al Horford’s 4-for-12 (33%) second half shooting was the best performance by any Atlanta player in the second half. Continue Reading…

The games in the Atlanta Hawks’ series against the Brooklyn Nets have all had a similar story. The Hawks would take an early lead with their starting unit, then Brooklyn would cut into that lead with their bench, make the game close by halftime, and then threaten to take the lead for the remainder of the game.

Game 6 of the series looked like it was going to continue following that formula. The Hawks jumped out to a massive early advantage, making 13 of their first 18 shots to create a 36-23 lead after 12 minutes of play. However, the Hawks’ shooting then went cold and Joe Johnson was able to pull the Nets back within six by the halftime buzzer, with the Hawks’ lead down to just 51-45.

However, in the third quarter, the 60-win Hawks finally arrived to the series.

The Hawks scored 41 points in the third quarter, with Paul Millsap leading the pack with 11. The ball movement was crisp and the shots were crisper, as Atlanta saw 16 (15 assisted) of their 24 shot attempts in the quarter go through the bottom of the net. The Hawks absolutely blew the doors off of the Nets with a 23-3 run to open the period and finally sealing the series by a count of four to two. Continue Reading…