The Hawks’ 2015-16 season got underway Wednesday night with a 98-96 victory over the Cavaliers in Cincinnati. The game was played at the Cintas Center, the home of Xavier University.
Jeff Teague led the Hawks with a game-high 17 points. Al Horford added 15 points, including one 3-pointer. The Cavaliers were led by J.R. Smith with 15 points.
Here are my five observations from the game:
1. Bazemore starts
With Thabo Sefolosha in New York City testifying in his criminal trial, Kent Bazemore started at small forward with the regular unit of Teague (20:57), Kyle Korver (14:45), Paul Millsap (21:22) and Horford (20:23). Sefolosha is expected to join the regulars as the replacement for DeMarre Carroll. The early indication is that Bazemore will be the primary backup at small forward. He play 19:59 and finished with 12 points and five rebounds. He scored the Hawks’ first points of the game on an aggressive drive to the basket. He also drew the assignment of guarding LeBron James. Justin Holiday was the first substitute at small forward.
2. Wounded return
Three Hawks had season-ending surgery last year with Sefolosha, Korver and Shelvin Mack. Korver started and played just the first half with two points (free throws). Mack came off the bench and played 12:51 with four points. All three have been cleared for full basketball activities but to see the two available on the court for the first exhibition game is a very good sign for the Hawks.
3. Battle for 15th roster spot
Lamar Patterson started the second half at shooting guard in place of Korver. The 2014 second-round pick scored his first NBA basket in the first minute of the third quarter. He played 12:23 and also had a rebound. Others in competition for the final spot are Terran Petteway (9:20, three points), DeQuan Jones (1:42, four points), Edgar Sosa (2:14, zero points), Arsalan Kazemi (2:42, zero points) and Earl Barron (DNP).
4. Depth shows
Tiago Splitter and Tim Hardaway Jr. were the first two Hawks off the bench, a good indication of what the regular-season rotation will look like. Hardaway Jr. gives the Hawks a backup shooting guard behind Korver, something they did not have last season. Edy Tavares made his debut as another player that will give the Hawks height and depth in the frontcourt. He finished with 11 points, four rebounds, two steals and one block. The 7-foot-3 Tavares was dunked on by the Cavs’ Richard Jefferson.
5. Teague in mid-season form
Teague was quite effective right from the start. He led the Hawks with 15 first-half points as the Hawks led 50-40 at intermission. He finished with 17 points. Teague had a highlight worthy step-over between-the-legs move for a jump shot over Quinn Cook. Later he added an isolation drive past Anderson Varejao on a (bad) Cavs switch.