Jeff Teague injured his ankle in the loss to the San Antonio Spurs a little over a week ago, which forced him to miss two games for the Atlanta Hawks. In those two games, Shelvin Mack did a great job in the starting lineup to lead the Hawks to a win over the Milwaukee Bucks. He couldn’t quite lead Atlanta to a win over the Oklahoma City Thunder, but that wasn’t his fault.
Kevin Durant refused to let his team lose after trailing for the majority of the game when he hit a number of clutch shots down the stretch to pull out a 111-109 win over the Hawks. Teague may or may not have made a difference down the stretch in that game if he played, but either way, his return to lineup for the Hawks is great news.
Teague’s return means that coach Mike Budenholzer has one less guy to worry about after a number of players suffered injuries over the past month. However, what his return really means is that Atlanta now has their floor general back on the court. Teague will not blow you away with his stat lines every game, but when he plays at a high level, the Hawks’ offense runs like a well-oiled machine. Players find themselves open all the time due to his ability to drive to hoop, which opens up the floor and creates more chances for easier shots. His performance against the Philadelphia 76ers is a great example of what happens when Teague is in the lineup.
Against Philadelphia, he led the team with eight assists in only 24 minutes of action, which doesn’t sound that significant, but when seven players (including Teague) score in double figures, this a great indication of the impact he makes on the game. His presence on the floor alone forced Philadelphia to respect his outside scoring a little more, which in turn created more space for his teammates to be able to produce. Players such as Paul Millsap, DeMarre Carroll and Kyle Korver not only benefited from his return in this game, but all season these three have found life a lot easier with their starting point guard on the court.
His latest game against the Minnesota Timberwolves further proves how much he means for the Hawks. Against the Timberwolves, he did more than just distribute the basketball to make an impact in this tightly-contested battle. Teague’s scoring helped Atlanta hold off Kevin Love‘s unbelievable 43-point and 10-rebound performance for Minnesota. To go along with his eight assists, Teague scored 19 points in 32 minutes of action to help lead his team to a good win at home. When the Hawks needed a big basket, it was Teague who hit a clutch three-pointer late in the game to seal the deal.
He’s only been back for two games since returning from an ankle injury, but Atlanta fans have to be excited about what they’ve seen so far. Teague looks like the player he was before the injury and if this is the case, Atlanta should be a lock for the NBA playoffs out of the Eastern Conference with their starting point guard at the helm.