Despite the best efforts of the Hawks starting five, the team fell to 1-4 on the preseason with a 90-82 defeat at the hands of the Memphis Grizzlies on Sunday afternoon.
Paul Millsap led the way for the Hawks with 19 points and 8 rebounds in 25 minutes (before exiting with what was reported as a sore left achilles), and Jeff Teague added 15 points and 5 assists for Atlanta in the loss. This was an extremely encouraging performance for Millsap, as it was certainly his best day in an Atlanta uniform, and his offensive repertoire was on full display, including a lethal mid-range jump shot. For Teague, head coach Mike Budenholzer was quick to say (in the post-game press conference) that the “comfort level is starting to come with Jeff”, and I couldn’t agree more. The 25-year-old point guard looked to be in the best command of the system that I had seen thus far, and that was evident in his stat line.
Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case for the bench, as the Hawks were outscored 41-24 by the Grizzlies in that area, and frankly, the production level wasn’t even that close. There were positive moments from a couple of players (Dennis Schröder most notably), but as a group, the bench shot 0-for-12 from 3-point land, and combined to shoot just 7-for-39 (18%) from the field in the game. Newly-signed small forward Cartier Martin didn’t exactly endear himself to the fan base, as he was responsible for a 1-for-12 performance from the field.
For the Grizzlies, it was the Jerryd Bayless show offensively. The 25-year-old combo guard went crazy in the first half, making all 6 of his field goal attempts (including 5 threes), and he finished with 22 points (on 8 for 9 shooting) in just 24 minutes. His explosion even brought Mike Budenholzer to ask the gathered media, “did he ever miss?” in the post-game, and that tells you everything you need to know about his showing. Outside of the Bayless experience, it was a fairly balanced effort from Memphis, but rookie guard Nick Calathes added 10 assists with a +20 (in 25 minutes) and Ed Davis played very well off the bench, finishing with 14 points and 8 rebounds in 26 minutes of action.
On the whole, it was a solid, but unspectacular performance for the Hawks. There were certainly stretches (namely in the 3rd quarter, when the Hawks outscored Memphis 28-17) where the team looked to be clicking on both ends, but unfortunately, those periods were few and far between. The team shot just 35% from the field (28 for 81) in the game, and that simply isn’t going to get it done against a quality opponent. Budenholzer pointed out that the team is “getting a lot of good shots”, and that fact will potentially facilitate future growth in offensive production, especially with an assumed comfort increase in the new system.
The Hawks will be in action again on Tuesday night at Philips Arena, as they host the Indiana Pacers at 7:30 pm ET. Stay tuned.