With 3:30 remaining in the 4th quarter in Detroit, it looked for all the world as if the Hawks may implode in a “traditional”, Hawks-like fashion by losing what had been a consistent lead throughout the night. The Pistons had just grabbed their first lead (at 88-87) since early in the 3rd quarter on the strength of two Rodney Stuckey free throws, but fortunately, there was an explosion on the horizon.
DeMarre Carroll scored 5 points in less than a minute, including a massive 3-pointer to extend the Atlanta lead to 5, and while that was quickly followed by a Kyle Singler lay-up, it was just the beginning. Jeff Teague made an inexplicable turnover at the other end, but made the play of the night, chasing down Brandon Jennings for a block on what appeared to be an easy basket, and when he found Al Horford on the other end for two, the game was virtually over, as the Hawks cruised to the 96-89 final margin.
Non-coincidentally, the Carroll-Teague-Horford trio each had big nights for the Hawks in the win, and that began well before their late barrage. Horford led the Hawks in rebounding with 11 during the game, and added 17 points (on 7 of 14 shooting) and a game-high +14 to his always stellar resume. In addition, Al’s stellar defense was fully on display in this one, frustrating the Detroit bigs for much of the night and keeping the Hawks competitive on the glass.
As for Teague, it was another “ho-hum” line of 18 points, 9 assists, 6 rebounds, 2 steals, and that epic chase-down block, as he continues to build his All-Star resume. It wasn’t exactly the “perfect” game for Teague (who shot 7 for 17), but he once again soundly outplayed Brandon Jennings (despite his 14 assists) and that allowed the Hawks to do several different things on offense, including the utilization of the tremendous Teague-Horford pick-and-roll.
DeMarre Carroll had a DeMarre Carroll game, with timely offense including his tremendous basket cuts, and solid defense. Kyle Singler dinged the Hawks for 22 points on 13 shots (in 41 minutes!!!), but most of that wasn’t on Carroll, and his 4th quarter output of 9 points and 3 steals helped to cap what was a nice victory for Atlanta.
On the Detroit side, it’s almost a must that we discuss our old friend, Josh Smith. “J-Smoove” didn’t get the start on this night for the Pistons, and he was limited to just 20 minutes of on-court action by head coach Maurice Cheeks. In response, Smith shot a horrendous 0-for-7 from the floor, and that likely had a lot to do with his full-on benching for the 4th quarter festivities. That absence led to the aforementioned usage for Kyle Singler, and anyone rooting for Josh had a rough night at the office.
Kyle Korver continued his All-World streak with his 86th consecutive game with a 3-pointer during the game. The sharpshooter cashed in early on Friday, knocking down a 3 at the 5:03 mark of the 1st quarter, and it was a very nice game for Kyle, who finished with 14 points on just 8 shot attempts, including a 4-for-6 output from beyond the arc.
As far as the bench was concerned, Mike Budenholzer again used a 10-man rotation that was absent of Dennis Schröder at the point guard spot. John Jenkins played 19 semi-unexpected minutes, but took advantage of the time with 5 rebounds (which has to be a favorite of Coach Bud) and a 3-pointer. Mike Scott again led the bench mob with 9 points and 4 rebounds in 14 minutes, and while it was a starter-heavy game, the bench was more than adequate.
It is extremely nice to see the Hawks sweep a team that was expected to compete with them for playoff positioning this season, and frankly, it was even better to do so without the benefit of optimal execution in either match-up. Now, the Hawks travel back to Atlanta for a quick, back-to-back turnaround against the Celtics on Saturday, as the two teams tip-off at 7:30 pm ET.