SALT LAKE CITY — The Atlanta Hawks have a glut of talent at point guard, so they traded away Shelvin Mack to Utah last month. Mack is now the Jazz starter, but the disparity between the teams at the position remains a sizable gap.
Jeff Teague scored 24 points to lead the Hawks to a 91-84 victory over the Jazz on Tuesday night.
"I thought Jeff was good everywhere tonight," Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer said. "He’s in an aggressive place and mindset. He’s seeing some holes and some opening where he can attack. When he’s attacking, everything else comes."
The Hawks moved to 1 1/2 games behind the Miami Heat for the No. 4 spot in the Eastern Conference.
The Jazz fell two games behind the Houston Rockets for the eighth and final spot in the West.
Teague added six assists, while Paul Millsap finished with 18 points and nine rebounds. The Hawks point guards outscored Utah’s 31-9.
"This is the Jeff I’m used to seeing and hopefully he keeps that going because when he plays at that level, we’re a very tough team to beat," Atlanta’s Al Horford said. "It’s just been different for us because I feel like teams know what we’re trying to do.
"Last year, we caught some people off guard. For us, this year, it’s been about trying to make adjustments offensively and trying to figure out how we can score the ball."
Gordon Hayward led the Jazz with 22 points and Derrick Favours chipped in 16.
"We played well in the first quarter and then Atlanta did some things that really bothered us and we started turning the ball over," Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. "We’ve talked about when teams raise their level, you have to respond.
"They did a good job of hawking the ball, no pun intended. … Their aggressiveness defensively at certain times was a problem for us."
The Hawks held the Jazz to just 15 points in the third quarter, a season-low for the period. Tim Hardaway Jr. scored six straight to close the quarter and give the Hawks a 66-57 lead.
The Jazz cut the lead to three in the fourth thanks to nine points from Hayward, but Utah couldn’t get stops down the stretch as Teague made play after play.
The Jazz jumped out to a 35-22 lead early in the second quarter, highlighted by a four-point play by Joe Ingles, but the flow of the game changed immediately afterward.
Utah closed the first quarter on a 8-2 run, but the Hawks rallied with a 19-3 spurt to take a 41-38 lead, including a fast-break alley-oop from Dennis Schroder to Horford.
Hawks: Atlanta gave up 27 first-quarter points, then held the Jazz to 26 over the next 20 minutes. … The Hawks have held eight consecutive opponents under 45 per cent shooting from the floor. … The victory was the seventh time this season, and second in a row, the Hawks managed to win after trailing by double digits.
Jazz: Utah has blown double-digit leads in five straight games. … Rudy Gobert has 51 rebounds over the last three games after adding 15 Tuesday. He finished with six points and a minus-19 plus-minus. … The Jazz outrebounded the Hawks 54-41. … Trey Burke received his third coach’s decision DNP in five games.
Budenholzer said Mack has a high-level basketball IQ, gets after it defensively, understands team concepts and joked that Mack knows the offence better than himself. "He’s a great addition for Utah and helped us out the last couple years," Budenholzer said before the game. The coach and president of basketball operations, however, quieted when asked why he traded Mack at the deadline. "Uh, It’s probably better, I would just say I’m happy for Shelvin," Budenholzer said.
Snyder was an assistant under Budenholzer during the 2013-14 season. Atlanta’s Millsap, Kyle Korver and Kris Humphries all played multiple seasons for the Jazz. Burke and Hardaway both played on the Michigan team that advanced to the 2013 NCAA Tournament final.
"We’re getting double-digit leads early in the game," Hayward said. "It’s just a little stagnant later on. We have a lapse for whatever reason. Turnovers happen, we’re not making shots, whatever etcetera, etcetera. Now all of a sudden our lead’s gone and we’re in a dogfight, momentum’s shifted and it’s a different game."
Hawks: Visit Toronto on Thursday.
Jazz: Visit Golden State on Wednesday.