The Hawks snapped a two-game losing streak with a 99-89 win over the Pistons Friday night at Philips Arena.
It looked easy – for a while. The Hawks built a 19-point lead in the third quarter before the Pistons went on a 23-4 run to completely erase it. Each team traded baskets to remain tied at 76-76 before the Hawks went on a 13-4 run to regain control.
Here are my five observations from the game:
1. Rebounding was going to be a big factor is the game – especially with the considerable size advantage of the Pistons’ front court. The Hawks finished with a 46-45 advantage on the boards. Paul Millsap had 12 rebounds and DeMarre Carroll and Thabo Sefolosha each had seven rebounds. The Hawks held the advantage despite only two rebounds from Al Horford.
Rebounding has been an issue for the Hawks this season and, for one night, they figured it out.
“Rebounding is just effort,” said Kyle Korver, who along with Jeff Teague each had four rebounds. “You get a body on someone and you just scratch and claw and try to go get the ball. I think we came out focused on that tonight. We’ve been beaten up down low for a couple games now. It was a point of emphasis and I think our guys responded.”
When the Pistons battled back to tie the game at 74-74, the Hawks outrebounded them 17-8 the rest of the game.
2. Mike Budenholzer knows that Teague’s offensive numbers will be highlighted. The Hawks point guard had a season- and game-high 28 points on 9 of 15 shooting and six assists. However, the Hawks coach was quick to praise Teague’s defense. Teague had two steals and two blocks.
“They run a ton of pick-and-rolls,” Budenholzer said. “He is kind of in it all night. Really, really pleased with Jeff’s effort, particularly on the defensive end of the court.”
Teague has scored 20 or more points in six of the 11 games.
3. It’s no secret the Hawks deficiencies this season have come on defense. There were some good steps Friday – like holding the Pistons to 15 second-quarter points. The Hawks held the Pistons to a 37.3 field goal and 19 percent 3-point percentages for the game. Both were season lows for Hawks’ opponents. They also held the Pistons to just 12 assists – also a season low for an opponent. The previous low was 23.
Budenholzer got on his team for its defense play this week.
“Our defense is what is going to get us to that next level,” Carroll said. “I heard Paul say earlier whether we are going to be a mediocre team or a great team. I think it’s going to be on the defensive end.
4. The Hawks’ bench has been a strength all season. However, they relied on the starters in this win. Each member of the starting unit scored in double figures – the fourth time they have done it this season. They combined for 79 of the 99 points. Credit the bench for 17 rebounds. That helped.
5. OK, the Pistons are not as good as I thought they were. After watching the team in the preseason, I thought they would challenge for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. I don’t think that is the case any longer.
They don’t seem to play with any flow. Too many times they get locked in a one-on-one game. It is clear that coach Stan Van Gundy is still working on rotations and playing time. Perhaps it will come but not for a while.