Going inside the Hawks’ 106-102 win over the Southeast Division-leading Wizards on Tuesday in Washington.
The numbers say Jeff Teague is just outside the NBA’s top tier of point guards, ranking eighth in assists at 6.9 per game his 19.67 PER is 13th at the position. But in order to break through, it’s going to take more than raw numbers; it’s going to take upstaging the players that make up that top tier.
Already this season, he was outscored by the Spurs’ Tony Parker 17-5 and the Cavaliers’ Kyrie Irving 20-5 — and Monday’s matchup with John Wall wasn’t set up for Teague to succeed. Wall had more points in four of their last five meetings and in three of four he’s had 11 or more assists, while Teague had 12 combined dishes in three previous games vs. the Wizard.
But Teague was aggressive from the start in scoring 28 points, hitting four shots in the paint in the first half, along with a jumper just outside the box. Of his eight field goals, just two were beyond nine feet.
Teague added to a points total that equaled his season high with three assists and two steals, and while Wall had 10 more dishes, he had 21 points and had six turnovers, while Teague had just three.
Wall has been playing at a career-high level, adding even more gravity to this matchup. Simply put: Teague rose to the occasion with his first win this season against the league’s best.
The Hawks’ bench had been missing some serious offensive punch, scoring 31.7 points over the last three games and averaging 29.0 (21st) on the season.
But Atlanta’s reserves came alive and provided a much-needed spark.
Behind Mike Scott’s 17 points and 13 from Shelvin Mack, the Hawks scored 41 points off the bench, and while the Wizards had 43, the contributions of Atlanta’s reserves came at the perfect time.
Mack opened the fourth with a 19-foot jumper, then he and Scott proceeded to score the Hawks’ next 14 points as they turned a one-point Washington lead into a 84-75 Hawks’ advantage.
Scott, a Chesapeake, Va., native, took over the game for close to five minutes, including a sequence in which he missed an 18-foot jumper, got his own rebound and drove to reach the foul line, where he hit both shots.
The performance was a huge boost for the Hawks given Scott’s recent woes. Since scoring 12 points against the Spurs on Nov. 5, he had just one double-digit effort (11 vs. the Heat on Nov. 14) and had scored a combined 17 points in 39 minutes in three games heading into Tuesday.
While there has been moments — including holding the Pistons to 37 percent shooting the last time out and the Heat to a 33.3 rate over the last 12 minutes — Atlanta’s defense came into the nation’s capital among the league’s worst.
Only five teams have allowed more points a game than the Hawks’ 102.5 and they rank 22nd in opponents’ field goal percentage (46.3). But they leaned on that D as the Wizards were, averaging an NBA-best 20.7 fast break points over the last three games, were held to zero.
The end result was a fourth out of five opponents to go over 100 points and Washington held a 45-42 rebounding edge despite Nene out with right plantar fascia. But when the offense sputtered in the second quarter, as the Hawks shot 4 of 18 (22.2) it was that early defensive effort that kept them in the game, as the Wizards hit just 3 of 17 shots in the first.
7 — The Hawks hit just seven three-pointers on 23 attempts. In the last three games, they’ve hit three (Cavaliers), nine (Lakers) and five (Pistons) after draining an average of 10 through the first eight games.
32 — Points Atlanta scored off the Wizards’ 25 turnovers. Those were a season-high forced by the Hawks.